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Everett's star turn as Wilde

Seated in a dingy bedroom in Naples, unable to write or, indeed, move out of his chair (he chooses not to walk), an aged and broken Oscar Wilde is defending his love for an obnoxious little twerp named Bosie.

This is the man (boy) for whom Wilde lost everything -- a floppy-fringed, sharply presented son of privilege, cursed with a delicate ego and a misplaced sense of importance.

Bosie also goes by the name of Lord Alfred Douglas, and he strongly believes that his lover's time in prison is nothing compared to the pains of being unheard (poor Bosie is a writer and a poet without an audience -- a real tragedy, he insists).

Wilde and Bosie's curious relationship is the central theme to David Hare's The Judas Kiss.

Instead of creating a "broad biographical play", the British playwright focuses his attention on two key events in the life and times of Oscar Wilde, the first being his decision to remain in England following his botched prosecution of the Marquess of Queensberry (Bosie's father), which, in turn, led to his own arrest and trial.

In Rupert Everett's stunning portrayal of a stubborn yet endlessly witty Wilde, we see a man for whom the luxuries of first-class hotel stays and trusted right-hand men (an accomplished Cal MacAninch as Robert Ross) are about to come crashing down.


Wilde could have fled the country, avoiding both his imprisonment and the inevitable downfall that was to follow. But he chose to stay. In the second half, he is out of prison and reunited with Bosie in Italy.

Nobody can understand the attraction with Bosie. It helps that Freddie Fox's animated turn as the cowardly Lord leaves every audience member wondering how this so-called romance ever got off the ground.

Then again, Everett's Wilde is by no means an example of perfection. Times get tough, money runs out and what does Wilde do? Worry about what is 'owed' to him. Whatever about the complexities of the characters, it remains a joy to see such fine acting talent play around a wonderfully realised script.

Running until Saturday. ****/*