Today, 16th October marks Oscar Wilde’s 160th birthday and Trafalgar Studios are hosting a special Gala performance, in the company of his grandson Merlin Holland, who co-wrote the play with John O’Connor, who based the play on transcripts of Wilde’s court appearances. 25% of the ticket price of tonight’s performance will go to the charity Stonewall to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall says: “We’re thrilled that European Arts Company are supporting our work and delighted that money raised from the West End run will help to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.”
The Trails of Oscar Wilde is a profound drama, which focuses on Wilde’s time in the courtroom, where he is on trial, for a crime. The crime that he is in court for is of homosexuality (this was many years ago, thankfully, else we would have not been held responsible for our choice of language!). No less than 100 days of the opening night of his fabulous play, The Importance of Being Earnest, he found himself a common prisoner sentenced to two years hard labour. As someone with a large number of friends who are homosexual, hearing such derogatory words being thrown around by the judge in the play is enough to make ones blood completely boil with rage. We witness the utmost degrading words being thrown around from his lips, reminding us of what awful treatment previous generations had to endure, at a time, where morality and high-brow snobbery were also at its height. We witness the judge depict lines from Wilde’s work and questioning the morality of his prose.
In the play we witness Oscar losing everything, including all of his money leading to bankruptcy, his dignity and place in society being stripped away from him and we watch his soul slowly crumble. As someone who has focused on his fabulous work, rather than anything else, watching this play is at times quite hard to digest. What is highlighted in this play, is that Wilde’s play on words and his ability to create what one may call portraits of art with his words is still fascinating to watch, to hear and to witness of what it must have been like to be in his presence and to be in the company of a witty and highly educated genius of literature.
Watching John Gorick acting as Wilde, gives us a glimmer of what it would have been like to have had the pleasure of being in Wilde’s company. His impeccable dress sense, natural flair and sense of humour seems to flow from his every pore and we loved watching Gorick play him with such panache and we loved his delivery of his lines, he is a joy to watch. Seeing Wilde’s fall from grace is genuinely sad. Wilde’s high opinion and confidence in himself is extremely funny to witness, much of it is probably true, yet seeing someone with such high self-esteem is rare and we thoroughly enjoyed the quips. William Kempsell and Rupert Mason play an array of characters including playing the lion-esque barristers with utter conviction which makes you want to despise them, before turning things around as they play endearing and witty cockney chambermaid and a European Professors of Masseuse and their quick costume changes are impressive.
Despite the said controversy in the play, the only thing that seeing this play has done has made us want to revisit Wilde’s work and read through it with wild fascination and to try and witness the beauty in which Wilde wanted to create. It also makes us grateful to be living in the present day, where gay marriage is now legal. Hurrah for 2014!