Following a hugely acclaimed and record-breaking sell out run at Hampstead Theatre, Neil Armfield's production of David Hare's The Judas Kiss just transferred to the West End. The cast features Rupert Everett and Freddie Fox in the lead roles of Oscar Wilde and Lord AlFred Douglas, performances which won them universal acclaim, they are joined by Cal Macaninch in the role of Robert Ross. The cast also includes Ben Hardy, Kirsty Oswald, Alister Cameron and Tom Colley.
Directed by Neil Armfield, The Judas Kiss is a fascinating insight into Oscar Wilde's relationship with Lord AlFred Douglas. David Hare's play focuses on two critical moments in Wilde's last years - the eve of his arrest at the Cadogan Hotel and a night in Naples after his release from two years imprisonment; The Judas Kiss speculates on the consequences of his self destructive fatalism, betrayal and love without trust.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph: Everett's Wilde is an older, sadder and wiser man than the wicked wit of popular imagination, and even his moments of humour are shot through with deep melancholy and a passivity that paradoxically becomes dramatically enthralling... It is moving to watch Everett in the role, not least because his gilded youth is far behind him and in this production he finally seems to be redeeming an often squandered talent.
Paul Taylor, The Independent: Painted, bloated with body-padding and in wrecked dinner jacket, this Wilde cuts a lonely Beardsley-meets-Beckett figure as he refuses to budge from his chair in the second half, responding to Bosie's various treacheries with a gently acerbic (but never spiteful) irony that is terribly touching in its sorrowful, residual love. The character extends a philosophical pity to Bosie, himself a victim of the Queensberry family's mania for power.
Michael Coveney, Whatsonstage: These encounters underline the draining of joy and carnality in Wilde's life; he's reduced to the husk of an aesthete who was gifted in tongues but cheated of delirious, uncomplicated physical passion. And they add real poignancy to a play that is all talk of the highest quality, and a very distinguished addition to the West End list.
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: Rupert Everett is a revelation as Oscar Wilde in this revival of David Hare's 1998 play. He movingly suggests both the glamour and tragic nobility of the self-destructive wit who became a globally bankable brand.
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out: Everett's vulnerable, bibulous Wilde isn't exactly Jesus-like. But he is undoubtedly a towering figure: intellectually, physically, and even morally. He is motivated only by love, he tells Bosie, and he deploys his great wit not waspishly, but in an effort to lighten the gloom as the hour of his 1895 arrest for indecency draws near.