Play by David Hare. Oscar Wilde's dangerous philosophy leads him on a path to destruction. The Judas Kiss describes two pivotal moments on that path: the day Wilde decides to stay in England and face imprisonment, and the night, after his release two years later, when the lover for whom he risked everything betrays him. With a quiet but burning sense of outrage, David Hare presents the consequences of taking an uncompromisingly moral position in a world defined by fear, expedience and conformity.
Original London West End Production 1998 with Liam Neeson
Previewed 12 March 1998, Opened 19 March 1998, Closed 18 April 1998 at the Playhouse Theatre
The cast featured Liam Neeson as 'Oscar Wilde' and Tom Hollander as 'Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie)' with Peter Capaldi as 'Robbie Ross', Stina Nielsen as 'Phoebe Cane', Daniel Serafini-Sauli as 'Galileo Masconi', Richard Clarke as 'Sandy Moffatt' and Alex Walkinshaw as 'Arthur Wellesley. Directed by Richard Eyre with designs by Bob Crowley, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by George Fenton and sound by John A. Leonard.
Presented by the Almeida Theatre.
"The casting of the star of Schindler's List and Michael Collins as Wilde was intriguing. Liam Neeson was last in an English production in Manchester 12 years ago. His portrayal broke with a long and arguably tired tradition of a camp, effete playwright. Neeson is powerfully built and ruggedly handsome and Hare gave him no epigrams and few witticisms. Instead, we had a memorably affecting portrayal of a man struggling to come to terms with his many losses. His desperate clutching at the hand of a friend hints at his loneliness while his young aristocratic lover samples the local fishermen. Intensely touching is his lament for his children: "Even though I left to travel down the darkest East End street to smear my mouth against men whose names I never knew, men whom 1 never saw, pressed against walls in the dark, in the rough dark - yet every night I came home and told my children stories of ghosts, of fairies, of monsters and of enchanted lands." Neeson's performance is compelling from first to last." The Independent
"David Hare's new play about Oscar Wilde and his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, begins with the most energetic bout of simulated oral sex I have ever seen on stage. Predictable theatrical shock tactics you might think, but you would he wrong. Those taking part are a hotel waiter and a chambermaid. It is a paradoxical twist of the kind Wilde himself would have approved. Unfortunately there are much longer sections of The Judas Kiss in which Hare's great gifts for elegant wit and bruising passion, so admirably suited to a piece about Wilde, seem to have deserted him. It is a cruel thing to say of a play about one of the most effortlessly entertaining men who ever lived, but despite the presence of Richard Eyre as the director, and Liam Neeson as Wilde, the evening is often numbingly dull, with both emotion and jokes in alarmingly short supply. Neeson is a superb screen actor, as he proved in Schindler's List. He seems hoarsely underpowered in the theatre, however, and strangely, almost defensively, heterosexual in the role of Wilde. He often delivers the dialogue as if reading the half-time football results and there is little evidence of Wilde's charm and courageous humour... Part of the play's problem is that Wilde's story has become almost too familiar...There are occasional tantalising glimpses of the play we might have had in Eyre's sluggish production. In the first half there is a moment when Wilde's brave facade crumbles, Neeson's face crumples, and our hearts are briefly touched. In the second act, Wilde's pain over his separation from his children is genuinely moving. For much of the evening, though, Hare and Neeson conspire to make Wilde seem almost oafishly stubborn and unpleasantly bad-tempered. It might well be that the image of 'Saint' Oscar has been overdone, but for a play about love, The Judas Kiss seems remarkably lacking in both tenderness and generosity of spirit." The Daily Telegraph
"We have plays about Wilde's trials, his politics, his life and his wife. Now comes David Hare's The Judas Kiss, presented by the Almeida Theatre at The Playhouse, which avoids the biographical slog to focus on two key episodes in Wilde's life. But, while it is sensitively written and directed, it suffers from a monochrome performance from Liam Neeson as the saintly Oscar...But Neeson carries only partial conviction. He has the height and bulk for Wilde but, in the first act, when the hero is affecting aloof indifference to his destiny, he conveys a restless agitation. Although he is much better in the second, one still longs for him to colour and point a phrase. Richard Eyre's production brings out the aching romanticism of the second act, aided by Mark Henderson's wintersun lighting and Bob Crowley's set, in which the Neapolitan squalor is offset by the bay's twinkling lights. Tom Hollander also portrays Bosie as a shallow emotional traitor and Peter Capaldi induces sympathy for Robert Ross as the eternal go-between. What the evening confirms is Wilde's Hamletesque status, in that each writer creates him afresh according to his own needs and desires." The Guardian
The Judas Kiss in London at the Playhouse Theatre previewed from 12 March 1998, opened on 19 March 1998 and closed on 18 April 1998
1st London West End Revival 2013 with Rupert Everett
Previewed 9 January 2013, Opened 17 January 2013, Closed 6 April 2013 at the Duke of York's Theatre
The cast features Rupert Everett as 'Oscar Wilde' and Freddie Fox as 'Lord Alfred Douglas' ('Bosie') with Cal MacAninch as 'Robbie Ross', Kirsty Oswald as 'Phoebe Cane', Tom Colley as 'Galileo Masconi', Alister Cameron as 'Sandy Moffatt' and Ben Hardy as 'Arthur Wellesley'. Directed by Neil Armfield with sets by Dale Ferguson, costumes by Sue Blane, lighting by Rick Fisher and sound by Paul Groothuis.
This production transfers to London's West End following an acclaimed run at the Hampstead Theatre in North London (6 September to 13 October 2012). The entire cast are reprising their roles from the 2012 Hampstead Theatre season at the West End's Dukee of York's Theatre.
"Rupert Everett's remarkable and impressively restrained performance gets to the generous but wilfully self-destructive heart of Wilde. As Bosie, Freddie Fox is petulant and pink-lipped, and he bursts with privilege. He shamelessly parades his gorgeous naked fisherman lover, Galileo, in front of the frail and impotent Wilde, who sees him for what he is and yet will not renounce his love... Everett is in his element delivering Hare's witty Wildean epigrams. And he is brilliant at affecting indifference... When he does give way to his grief, his ravaged face crumpling in tears when he thinks of his children whom he is forbidden to see unless he gives up Bosie, it is a wretchedly moving spectacle." The Mail on Sunday
"Oscar Wilde's martyrdom became mythology, all but making a saint of him. In David Hare's 1998 portrait of the man behind the aesthete's artful mask, we watch as he sacrifices himself on the altar of love, knowing he will be betrayed. The play depicts two pivotal moments in Wilde's downfall: his decision to remain in England for the trial that resulted in his conviction and sentencing to two years' hard labour in prison; and his abandonment by his beloved Bosie, Lord Alfred Douglas, in Italy after his release. It's a subtle, dense but dangerously static piece; yet Neil Armfield's delicate production is as taut and resonant as piano wire, and exquisitely acted." The Times
"David Hare may be too pofaced to grasp the postironic aura that Wilde now has about him, but Rupert Everett, playing him in Neil Armfield's accomplished revival, seems to understand it well enough. Bulked up, powdered and mascared... it is, however, Everett's eyes that make the character come devastatingly alive - they are variously dependent, deluded, despairing and ultimately, in the final scene, as a single spotlight falls upon his face, filled with dread. He has, in Freddie Fox, a worthy leading man. His Bosie is beautiful, but screechy, highly-strung and mad-eyed and with more than a whiff of sulphur about him. Wilde can look upon him only with a weary sense of enslavement. This is a match made in theatrical heaven: Fox proves, once and for all, that there is a lot more to him than drawing-room comedies and an illustrious surname, and Everett, for his part, performs the unperformable in making Wilde finally seem human." The Sunday Telegraph
The Judas Kiss in London at the Duke of York's Theatre previewed from 9 January 2013, opened on 17 January 2013 and closed on 6 April 2013.