The Trials of Oscar Wilde
at Greenwich Theatre, London
“It flies by - almost an hour of court proceedings that are both informative and gripping”
The European Arts Company have now embarked upon a UK tour with this production - at times a verbatim performance of the two major court trials that saw Oscar Wilde imprisoned for two years. If that comes as a surprise to you, where have you been?!? I ought to mention that at the end of Titanic, there is an iceberg… Anyway, The Trials of Oscar Wilde is a repeat of a successful tour from 2014 and certainly a show worth catching if it pops up near you as it passes on a pertinent message.
When the documents of the actual court proceedings came to light a few years ago, it was a revelation to read - and now, thanks to this play, see - Oscar being argumentative, witty and contrite whilst in the dock. All in his own words, collected together by Oscar’s grandson Merlin Holland.
The whole tragedy began with an accusation made by The Marquess of Queensberry - that Oscar was having ‘relationships’ with young men. Oscar sued for libel and that case underpins Act One. It flies by - almost an hour of court proceedings that are both informative and gripping.
Act Two is The Criminal Case that followed. Roles are reversed, suddenly Oscar has to defend himself rather than prosecute. Sadly, the second half doesn’t quite grip as much as the first. There are witnesses called and these are played as grotesques, like pantomime characters popping up in a drama.
[Rupert Mason and John Gorick]
Directors John O’Connor and Eva Savage may be aware that Oscar’s speeches aren’t as delightfully pithy as an audience would perhaps hope, so they allow some minor characters to go for laughs. For me, it doesn’t sit right. It may show the actors’ versatility but I think it’s to the detriment of the drama of the play.
John Gorick plays Oscar, with an assurance and a fist on hip stance that one would expect. He allows the characters strengths and weaknesses to show. (Although, once in a while he allows his chin to protrude - giving me a quick glimpse of something else. I see Tommy Cooper in that face. That is meant as a compliment and a suggestion for a role he could look into!)
[Benjamin Darlington and Patrick Knox]
The rest of the numerous characters are played by costume-changing Rupert Mason (brilliant as prosecuting barrister Charles Gill and witness Fred Atkins), Benjamin Darlington and Patrick Knox.
A simple and effective set design by Tom Paris has all the action in the centre, with carefully placed chairs and props down the sides. A long curtain hangs at the back, with intermittent projections aiding the story along.
It should be noted, of course, that Oscar was found guilty for a crime that does not exist in the UK today: that of homosexuality. It is, however, still illegal to be gay in 78 countries and punishable by death in five… Food for thought, indeed.
Photographer David Bartholemew
Playwrights Merlin Holland and John O’Connor
Directors John O’Connor and Eva Savage
Set Designer Tom Paris
Box Office from individual theatre box offices (see tour list
below) and at
Running Time 2 hours 20 minutes (including interval)
Twitter @EuropeanArtsCo, #TrialsOscarWilde
UK Tour Schedule:
10th-11th Brighton Pavilion
12th-13th Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton
14th Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield
17th-18th The Haymarket, Basingstoke
20th Middlesbrough Theatre
24th Harrow Arts Centre
25th-27th Theatre Royal, Winchester
8th Key Theatre, Peterborough
9th Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton
10th Forest Arts Centre, New Milton
11th Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury
15th Stantonbury Theatre, Milton Keynes
16th Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
17th Stamford Arts Centre
21st Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells
22nd Chipping Norton Theatre
23rd-25th Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
28th-29th Dugdale Centre, Enfield
30th Guildhall Arts Centre, Grantham
31st The Courtyard, Hereford
1st Waterside Arts Centre, Sale