Theatre Review: The Judas Kiss

Date Posted: 30/01/2013

Theatre Review - The Judas Kiss - Ideal for Group Travellers

Pictured: Rupert Everett  and Freddie Fox in The Judas Kiss. (Photo credit: Manuel Harlan).

Rachel Bailey went to see David Hare’s acclaimed production, and spills the naked truth about what’s really showing in the Duke of York’s Theatre.

I headed to watch The Judas Kiss anticipating a possibly tedious and long-winded presentation of the history of poet and writer Oscar Wilde.

How wrong my expectations were, and how pleased I was to find myself in the audience to such a humorous and well-written play. Written by David Hare, directed by Neil Armfield, and starring Rupert Everett and Freddie Fox, The Judas Kiss made for a truly enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

The play is two and half hours long, including the interval, and illustrates the trials and tribulations of Oscar Wilde’s homosexual preferences in a time where society rejected such ideals. With a cast of seven and only one scene change, the bones of the play are held up by an astonishingly concise script, with enough humour to lighten the poignant subject matter.

Opening with a rather graphic scene, which, to put it bluntly, involves a naked couple and a bed, my initial thought was ‘Oh lord, what has work sent me to review now!?’ However, ten minutes in and the play is in full swing, drawing an audience in immediately with a raunchy opening scene and hilarious dialogue from the off. David Hare’s script is beautifully performed with great comic timing and emotional pauses from all cast members.

Rupert Everett’s entrance as Oscar Wilde can only be described as impressive. Having previously starred in a host of theatre, film and television productions including St Trinians (2007), Shakespeare in Love (1998) and Hysteria (2011), Everett’s stage presence exudes professionalism and great talent, and really makes the entire performance.

The main focus of the first half of The Judas Kiss is the moral dilemma that Wilde confronts in the face of his pending trial concerning gross indecency. On the eve of his arrest, set in a room of The Cadogan Hotel, Wilde’s choices of running to exile abroad or staying to face judgement, and consequently jail, make for a thought-provoking beginning.

Judas Kiss - Theatre Review

Pictured: characters Oscar and Bosie in the first half. (Photo credit: Manuel Harlan).

Shouldered by Freddie Fox playing Wilde’s younger male lover Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, and close friend and ex-lover Robert Ross (Cal MacAninch), Wilde contemplates not the positives of either consequence but the results of his already tainted reputation. Bosie and Robert play angel and devil with fast-paced speech and emotional outbursts, while Oscar jokingly deliberates over what sides to have with a dinner of lobster.

Everett plays Wilde in such a way to gain audience sympathy successfully, and by the interval, one just wants Oscar to be free to love Bosie in any way that he wishes. It’s over the course of the second half that the conversation topics deepen, and audience members are encouraged to question their own moral beliefs in comparison. 

Those watching The Judas Kiss need to come armed with a basketful of concentration; however, audiences are richly rewarded with a delightful and in-depth insight into the true characters of Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, which truly brings these historical figures to life. Other characters are the head butler, junior butler, and a maid in The Cadogan Hotel, and a naked Italian who stays the night with Bosie in Naples. The latter was the butt (excuse the pun) of several tear-inducing jokes, and lightened what could have made for heavy-going subject matter in the second half of the production. 

My only negative thought concerning The Judas Kiss is the question of how necessary the nudity scenes were. Yes, it’s all done extremely tastefully, but it was only the minor characters that had to take their clothes off, leaving me wondering why it was required in the first place. Even Bosie, who appears extremely camp, had a sheet wrapped around him in his near-naked scene, as opposed to being totally nude. What exactly was the point? On the other hand, I felt a tremor of fear every time Everett moved around the stage that he might begin to de-cloth himself, which would have spoilt his character greatly for me. Thank heavens he didn’t, and stuck to his verbal talents which were more than satisfactory.

Theatre Review - The Judas Kiss

Pictured: Rupert Everett as the charismatic Oscar Wilde. (Photo credit: Manuel Harlan).

The play really sums up the themes of unrequited love and the limitations of social expectations through the use of some greatly-loved characters, so if you have the chance to see it, grab the chance and don’t miss out.

The Judas Kiss is currently playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 6th April. Performances times are Monday to Saturday at 7.30 pm, and two matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm. A group rate is available for parties of ten or more people.


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