Two weeks into a new year and our first trip to the theatre. You thought we’d given it up for 2013 didn’t you?
We’ve given other things up, well at least Andrew has. He’s having his now-customary January-off-the-sauce detox. Phil has gone the other way. He’s been playing the new Jeremy Piven drinking game which involves taking a swig of alcohol every time Piven’s titular Mr Selfridge gives one of his many signature toothy grins and raises both arms in the air. It’s quite intoxicating and not recommended on an empty stomach.
So with two theatrical experiences to get through in one evening* Phil went with Andrew’s flow and stayed dry too. In normal Whingering circumstances they’d have felt the spirit and spirits of Oscar Wilde in themselves. In David Hare‘s The Judas Kiss Wilde – however reduced his circumstances – never seems to be short of alcohol. It was a cruel irony for for a cold sober January evening.
Phil had bad memories of the play: he’d witnessed Liam Neeson’s horribly miscast Wilde (with Tom Hollander as Bosie) the first time round in 1998. Neeson clearly wanted to set the record and Oscar straight and played him as, err, Liam Neeson. No such problems with Rupert Everett‘s much-talked-about portrayal (transferred from Hampstead), he’s a believably plausible and haunted Wilde and also remarkably jowly and lumpen (in a fat suit one must assume); there’s more Oscar displayed here than on Daniel Day Lewis’ mantlepiece. You can almost smell a green carnation from the stalls.
Oscar is holed up in luxury in the Cadogan hotel about to be arrested for ‘gross indecency’ after the collapse of his libel case against the Marquess of Queensberry but is persuaded to stay for the ill-judged love of his defamer’s son Bosie (Freddie Fox splendidly irritating) and to defend his honour rather than escape abroad. Act 2 sees post-prison Oscar a broken man holed up in a rubbish hotel in Naples with the ghastly Bosie parading his latest conquest. Two years in Reading Gaol looks a preferable option.
There’s plenty of gross indecency on the London stage currently but not at the Duke of York’s (try the Piccadilly Theatre for that) as Neil Armfield‘s production is well-cast from Cal MacAninch’s eminently sensible Robbie Ross down to the servants’ roles. Maybe they’re just after tips but the hotel staff seem surprisingly Bohemian but that’s the world of hospitality for you.
There’s a scene-stealing sauce-making scene which was so distracting for Phil that the words uttered during it fell on deaf ears. And yes, there are a lot of words. It’s rather talky and static at times especially in Act 2 with Oscar pretty much confined to a chair, though penury and immobility brings out plenty of flashes of wit which are delivered by Everett with deliciously dry disdain.
And there was more to like too. Andrew was impressed with the lighting (Rick Fisher) and Phil loves the Aubrey Beardsley / The Yellow Book styled poster.
For the easily offended there’s an awful lot of male undercarriage on display and one can’t help but speculate about the audition process. Presumably the actor playing Bosie’s Italian fisherman friend (no, we’re not going there) was required to drop his kecks and wave it around to see if he measured up to the, err, part and was sufficiently hung like a Tesco burger.
Roll on February when normal insobriety will be resumed.
* The Whingers went to see a platform at the Cottesloe before the play: polymath actor/writer/presenter Ian Kelly in conversation with Al Senter talking about his latest and hugely entertaining biography of Samuel Foote (Mr Foote’s Other Leg) with an extract from one of Foote’s plays thrown in for good measure. Great fun.