Monday, 21 March 2016

“It broods over key questions arising: why did the playwright face the dangerous music of a trial for homosexual offences instead of fleeing abroad?"

“It broods over key questions arising: why did the playwright face the dangerous music of a trial for homosexual offences instead of fleeing abroad? Why did he return to Alfred Douglas, the lover he tried to give up—like alcohol—but from whom he continued to drink deep until that Judas Kiss. Love is the predictable answer. A complex brand of betrayal, its mechanics and cruelties, forms the play’s dramatic core and Hare’s interest: It is Douglas, Wilde’s awful and unwisely adored Bosie, who does the betraying. Love causes Oscar to cling to Lord Alfred as if he were an elixir rather than, as in Hare’s portrayal, the human incarnation of a sexually transmitted disease. But there’s a reiterative monotony about Hollande’s Lord Alfred, both here and during the final act on the Italian coast where the now exiled, long-suffering Wilde watches Bosie packing his bags to leave and dumping his conscience and love. Hare makes Bosie simply malign and Hollande relishes making his character a master of lordly snivels and sneers. Liam Neeson’s Wilde, though, comes as a riveting surprise. Scorning the old style of Wildean affectations and camp, he whirls on stage, long hair trailing, manly sweat soon streaming down his face. This is Wilde the emotional bulky hulk, rather than the plump commanding intellect, with wit his weapon of choice. Pallid and hair parted, he does not later look the victim of two years ruinous hard labour and emotional breakdown. But how wrenchingly he conveys Hare’s sense of a Wilde wrecked by love and society.”


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