Once again, I wish that I’d seen this before the final performance so that I could encourage you to go. Alas, too late (again) .
Written by David Hare, the two-act play concerns Oscar Wilde and his lover Lord Alf Douglas. Act One is set in a London hotel, just prior to Wilde’s arrest where his friend Robert Ross is trying to persuade him to leave for the continent; the second act is in Naples two years later where Bosie decides to leave the impoverished and broken Wilde to return to London and his family.
I find it hard to see anyone else other than Stephen Fry playing Wilde- surely a part that he was born to play, and there’s a danger that playing such a flamboyant figure can descend to parody. But Chris Baldock, playing Wilde made the part his own, to the point at the end of the play where there was absolute silence as the audience collectively held its breath, then exhaled. In a wonderful performance, Baldock as Wilde was on the stage for almost the whole time, burbling forth a stream of dialogue, then lapsing occasionally into a deep, black silence that in itself spoke volumes. Tim Constantine as Lord Douglas captured his petulance well, but also his insecurity and jealousy.
There was a warning about nude scenes and cigarettes, and I must admit that the nude scenes were rather more than I expected! Must be a David Hare trademark- wasn’t ‘Our Nic’ nude in her performance of Hare’s The Blue Room? It’s just as well that the theatre itself is so well heated.
I don’t always go to HTC productions, but I have been to a few. There’s something quite warming about a local theatre: looking around the audience and always spying someone that you know, the sherry before the performance, the squeaky orange seats that, in this case, fell silent too at the end of the play. This was certainly the best performance I’ve seen there, and I only wish that I’d gone earlier in the season so that I could tell more people about it.