Tic Tac Toe Theatre Company presents
The Scandalous Love of Oscar Wilde
Written by: Calum Grant
Thursday 1st and Friday 2nd August, 2019
It is the 6th of April 1895 and Oscar Wilde waits alone at the Cadogan Hotel. He is awaiting a knock on the door that will bring an arrest warrant with charges of Gross Indecency against him. In this superb one man play Oscar will talk openly about his affair with a young boy of fifteen who’s life will never be the same again. The ruination he has bought down on the head of his wife, Constance and their two boys, and of course the one true love of his life, Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas.
Bosie once said to Oscar that when he was not on his pedestal he was boring, in this show Oscar may well stumble from his pedestal but he could never be called boring.
Review: The Scandalous Love of Oscar Wilde
By Elisabeth Winkler
The Scandalous Love of Oscar Wilde is intimate, immediately. The audience enters to find Oscar Wilde seated, reading. We have stumbled on a moment in his life.
What a moment. The play is set on the night of 6 April 1895 as he awaits arrest at the Cadogan Hotel, London. We know how it will end: imprisonment and hard labour, then exile and impoverishment (even his copyrights are sold), his health and contact with his children, broken.
Wilde has withdrawn his own libel prosecution against the Marquis of Queensbury. However, sufficient evidence had emerged during the trial for Wilde to be prosecuted by the Crown. His crime? Gross indecency, a law by introduced in 1885 to criminalise homosexuality.
As Oscar Wilde awaits arrest, he explains the events which led to this scandal (or as he puts it “gossip made tedious by morality”). The beauty of Oscar Wilde is that he does not pretend. He is honest. He tells us everything. An artist, he seeks out the truth and the play is an exercise in self-examination. Did he consider the ruinous effects his libel trial would have on his wife Constance and their two boys when he decided to sue the Marquis of Queensbury? No, Wilde admits. Instead he thought only of getting revenge for the bullied son of the Marquis, Bosie, Lord Alfred Douglas, and Wilde’s lover.
The playwright Calum Grant has grounded the play in facts. The programme acknowledges the author’s ‘debts of gratitude’ to two main texts: De Profundis the 50,000-word letter Oscar Wilde wrote in Reading Gaol to Bosie, and Oscar Wilde’s Scandalous Summer: The 1894 Worthing Holiday and the Aftermath by Anthony Gillman. This 2015 biography features hitherto unpublished material including the Queensbury libel trial, Constance’s letter to another man and details of Oscar Wilde’s relationship with the 16-year-old Alphonso, all of which inform the play’s narrative arc.
The relationship of an older (and more powerful) man and an adolescent boy treads delicate moral ground. In the play, Oscar Wilde makes his case: he would never press for sex if there was reluctance - as was the case with Bosie, where sex petered out after a few months though the passionate enmeshment continued. Wilde references the ancient Greeks, and quotes Bosie’s poem with the famous line, ‘the love that dare not speak its name.’
The evidence of young male sex workers eventually condemns Wilde but he does not blame them. He blames only himself. Not for being gay or loving youth, but for ruining his family as a result of his toxic dependency on the damaged, self-centred Bosie.
Luke Stuart gives an extraordinary performance. He both looks like Oscar Wilde, and also seems to embody his romantic, artistic nature. I found myself nodding as he spoke, as if I really was in the presence of Oscar Wilde, and wanting to encourage him as he shared his thoughts. Directed by Calum Grant, the performance is all the more moving for being restrained, for instance where Wilde cries, briefly, then apologises for losing his dignity.
First performed at the Merlin Theatre in Frome (directed by Geoff Hunt), Tic Tac Toe Theatre Company’s one-man show will be at the Alma Vale Tavern Theatre until Thursday 18 October and then The Rondo Theatre in Bath on Thursday 15 November. This one-man play is a revealing, fact-based, compelling and thought-provoking account of Oscar Wilde, sensitively portrayed. May it run and run.
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