David Mirvish brings in the North American premiere of The Judas Kiss after its successful London West End theatre run, starring Rupert Everett along with a strong supporting cast. Everett plays Oscar Wilde, in a story about his life, written by David Hare and directed by Neil Armfield. This production began at London’s Hampstead Theatre in 2012, where it received unanimous raves and broke the theatre’s box office record. Due to popular demand, it transferred to London’s West End, where it also had a brilliant engagement.

The Judas Kiss is an insightful look into Oscar Wilde’s relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas. The 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 story line speculates on the consequences of his self-destructive fatalism, betrayal and love without trust.

The entire play takes place in hotel rooms, and the very minimalist stage set up works perfectly in allowing the script to develop each of the individual characters on stage. The show opens with two of the hotel staff getting it on in the bedroom that Wilde has rented for a week while awaiting trial. Spoiler alert: this is not the only time there will be full frontal nudity on stage. Tip: best views are from stage right.

Judas Kiss, Mirvish Produtions

Judas Kiss, Mirvish Produtions

In the first act of the play, Wilde’s spoiled and impetuous younger lover Bosie has succeeded in instigating Wilde to sue Bosie’s father in court for insulting him as a “sodomite”. The subsequent court loss then opens the way for Wilde being criminally indicted for gross indecency, but not Bosie. Wilde then gets tacit government permission to flee England across the channel to France to avoid arrest, trial, and imprisonment, but refuses. He surmises that his life is but a book in development, and as long as he is in control there is not ending. The act ends with Wilde being arrested and thrown in jail.

The second act begins with Wilde sitting in another hotel room, this time decrepit instead of elegant. He appears weathered, saddened, and depressed, with no energy to continue writing. Despite his friends warning to avoid Boise after his release, the pair do reunite. It becomes an even more fragmented relationship as Wilde ages and falls into despair, while Boise ages and develops into a young adult ready to discover the world on his own. It’s a typical May to December romance, whereby the couple have a considerable age difference between them, and often one individual has an ulterior motive, such as money, status, etc. In this case it is Wilde being a mentor for Boise to get noticed and develop his own reputation as a poet.

Judas Kiss, Mirvish Productions

One can’t help but feel sadness for Wilde, who disillusioned by the prospect of love, is later cast aside as a victim of deceit. It’s not an uncommon scenario is these type of relationships for the younger to be in them for the gain of something, however there are many instances where age means nothing, and love abounds from both. It just so happens this wasn’t one of those situations. Wilde is seen sitting alone in the hotel room, while Boise is picking up men his age and going out galavanting about the town with whatever little money the pair have left. He then receives notice that his mother would forgive his past and garnish him with money on one stipulation – that he leave Wilde.

The topic of same-sex relationships is referenced several times throughout, with the younger more carefree Boise, telling Wilde to be more open as one day these type of relationships will be more accepted – and here we are in 2016, over a century later.

Besides Everett who has garnered most of the attention, the play also stars Charlie Rowe as Lord Alfred Douglas (aka Bosie), and Cal Macaninch as Robbie Ross, Wilde’s first male lover. Others in the production include Elliot Balchin as Arthur, and Jessie Hills as Phoebe Can, the amorous hotel staff. As well, Tom Colley appears as Galileo, the far-from-shy Italian fisherman catch of Bosie’s.

Judas Kiss, Mirvish Produtions

Judas Kiss, Mirvish Produtions

The Judas Kiss is now playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria St, Toronto – Tickets available at www.mirvish.com or by phone at TicketKing at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333. Tickets can also be purchased in person  at the Royal Alexandra Theatre Box Office, 260 King Street West.

The production travels to New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music – May 11 to June 12, 2016


About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment, and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors, and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats. Reach out - bryen@thebuzzmag.ca