by Lynn on December 10, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at The Five Points Theatre, Barrie, Ont. Until Dec. 11.

Warning: full frontal nudity.

Written by David Hare

Directed by Billy Lake

Set by Diane Frederick

Costumes by Laura Delchiaro

Lighting by Jeff Pybus

Cast: Jason Allin

David Ball

Noah Beemer

Aidan Desalaiz

Justan Myers

Evelyn Wiebe

The Story and Comment. The Judas Kiss is about the fraught relationship between playwright Oscar Wilde and his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, or Bosie as he was nicknamed. The play centres on two pivotal points in their relationship.

But first a little background.In London, England in 1895 playwright Oscar Wilde was on trial for gross indecency.Wilde was homosexual which in England was illegal.He had a relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas whose father, the Marquess of Queensberry, famously called Wilde a sodomite, only he misspelled the word on a card left for Wilde at his club.Wilde lost the case of gross indecency and was sentenced to two years in prison.He sued the Marquess of Queensberry for libel and lost that case too.

As for the two pivotal points in the play….

In Act I Wilde had just been found guilty of gross indecency in court and the penalty is two years in prison. He is desperate to see Bosie,( Lord Alfred Douglas) so they arrange to meet at a hotel known for its discretion—the Cadogan in Sloane Square. Bosie wants Wilde to continue the fight in court and has a cousin he thinks will help by talking to the Prime Minister.

Wilde’s friend, Robert Ross, with whom he had a previous relationship, wants Wilde to leave the country and has arranged for a cab to take Wilde to the train station and then to Europe by boat. What follows is Wilde, Bosie and Ross debating what the best course is. Bosie seems to want to get even with his father. Ross wants the best for his friend Oscar Wilde.  He says that the court will delay sending the police to arrest him, giving Wilde time to escape. Wilde feels escaping plays into the hands of those who think he is weak. Wilde decides to do nothing and have an elegant lunch instead.

In Act II Wilde is in Naples with Bosie. Wilde has served his time in prison and is a sick, broken man. Bosie has contented himself with other young men in the meantime.  So the whole relationship has changed and what to do next is again debated.

But because the play is written by David Hare, The Judas Kiss is much more than a play about famous lovers. Hare is a playwright who deals with politics and social issues in his plays, and The Judas Kiss is no different.

The play is about class and xenophobia for a start. Bosie is the aristocracy and has the arrogance of someone for whom everything comes easy because of his family’s place in upper society. He can afford to urge Wilde to continue his fight in court. Bosie has nothing at stake and Wilde has everything at stake. As has been hinted at, Bosie wants to get even with his father for trying to run his life. Wilde is a commoner. And he’s Irish, which to an Englishman at the time is worse, hence the xenophobia. The class-conscious British would have nothing but contempt for Oscar Wilde, no matter how celebrated a playwright.

Also the play is about the love of beauty—as Wilde elegantly illuminates. It’s about love—true obsession on the part of Wilde for Bosie, and something a bit more murky on the part of Bosie for Wilde—I think he liked the thrill of being adored.  As David Hare paints Lord Alfred Douglas, he was not a true, loyal friend.

For true loyalty and friendship, we have Robert Ross. He and Wilde did have a loving relationship before Bosie came on the scene and replaced Ross in Wilde’s affections. But Robert Ross remained true to Wilde as much as he could without having to compromise himself. He tried to save Wilde from prison. He acted as a go-between between Wilde and his equally devoted wife, Constance. He was there as a true friend and it ended badly.

The play beautifully captures the language and esthetic of Wilde; the tenor of the times in England regarding the law and homosexuality and the complex relationship Wilde had with Bosie and others.

The Production. The production totally lives up to the quality of the play. This is a splendid, elegant, thoughtful production. The look of the production is elegant and sumptuous without being overwhelming. Diane Frederick’s set has a few gleaming antique-looking pieces of furniture that set the scene of the world that Bosie and Wilde inhabit.

Laura Delchiaro’s beautifully designed clothes for Bosie and Wilde show their flamboyance and style; Wilde’s yellow vest matches his yellow socks; he wears his famous green carnation; a top coat is deep purple. Bosie’s clothes are beautifully tailored in pastels. The always discrete Robert Ross wears a fitted gray suit, vest and tie.

Jeff Pybus’ lighting at times shimmers on the skin of either Bosie or Wilde as they stand in profile with a ‘touch’ of sunlight glowing on them. Magical effect.  

Director Billy Lake is making his directorial debut with Talk is Free Theatre with The Judas Kiss. His work is confident, detailed and beautifully captures the rarified world of class, estheticism and beauty in all things from fine clothes, to furnishings, language and relationships. And Lake certainly gets wonderful performances from his gifted actors.

As Oscar Wilde, Aidan Desalaiz looks like Wilde and inhabits that world of beauty and sophistication with ease. Wilde is a man brimming with beautiful language, nuance and subtlety and all of it is in Aidan Desalaiz’s performance. As Bosie, Noah Beemer exudes boyish charm and an easy sense of entitlement. Bosie’s character is shallow but Noah Beemer plays him with such true conviction one is drawn into that world, mesmerized.  As Robert Ross, David Ball is a revelation. He illuminates Ross’s desperation to save Oscar with a controlled calmness that we know is boiling under the surface.  He never shouts to get Oscar’s attention, rather he continues urging him to act and move in the most determined way. It’s a performance that is watchful and knowing. Terrific work by all of them.

The whole world of this production, from the elegant costumes, furnishings and shimmering lighting and the wonderful acting, is one more reason to seek out the theatre gifts of Talk Is Free Theatre in Barrie.

Talk Is Free Theatre Presents:

Plays until Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, approx. 1 intermission.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.