Directed by Karina Hudson
The Courtyard, Canberra Theatre Centre to 5 August
Reviewed by Len Power 27 July 2018
Over 100 years since his death, Oscar Wilde remains well-known with his four plays still frequently performed and the scandalous event that ruined his life dramatized in several movies and plays.
‘The Judas Kiss’, written in 1998 by David Hare, focusses on the two year period after Wilde’s conviction for gross indecency in 1895. Even though he has been given the opportunity to leave England before the authorities catch up with him, his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, convinces him not to leave, resulting in his jailing for two years. In Naples, Italy in 1897, after being released from prison, the broken and unwell Wilde and Douglas have resumed their liaison but the relationship is strained.
Mockingbird Theatre first performed this play in Melbourne in 2014 with Chris Baldock in the role of Oscar Wilde. The play has been remounted in Canberra as Mockingbird’s first production in this city. Under the direction of Karina Hudson, Baldock repeats his role and the other roles are played by local Canberra actors.
David Hare’s play captures the spirit of the times and the man and his friendships very well. Chris Baldock gives a towering performance as Oscar Wilde. He displays every aspect of this man whose wit and intelligence is fatally clouded by his obsession with a young man. His performance is thoroughly believable and ultimately very moving.
Anna Senior has again excelled with the period costumes and director, Karina Hudson, who also designed the simple set, keeps the dialogue heavy play flowing at a good pace. The tension between the characters is maintained very well. Some passages in the dialogue could have easily become melodramatic but Hudson ensures that the delivery stays realistic throughout.
The director has obtained fine performances from her entire cast. Liam Jackson gives a strong performance of great depth as the petulant, arrogant and spoiled Lord Alfred Douglas and Patrick Galen-Mules is very convincing as Robert Ross, the voice of reason ignored by Wilde. Meaghan Stewart, Cole Hilder, Arran McKenna and Benjamin Balte Russell all give nicely detailed characterisations in their supporting roles.
‘The Judas Kiss’ was a good choice as a first production in Canberra by Mockingbird Theatre. We are very lucky to have work of this quality presented by talented local theatre practitioners.
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast in his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.