It is the attempt to show a whole life in two scenes. And up to a point it is a very successful attempt that makes it clear just how dependent Oscar Wilde was from his young lover Bosie, even though the spoilt childlike manipulator takes other lovers and it’s never clear if he ever shared his body with the famed irish writer.
Rupert Everett shows an impressive amount of guts to portray Wilde with horrific white make up and rouged cheeks like an aging queen with dirty locks, while Freddie Fox as the angelic looking Bosie succeeds in seducing the audience as well as Wilde until he shows his true colours – the master manipulator who wants to stir his parents into “seeing” him, no matter which way.
The first scene takes place in the advent of Wilde’s arrest – where he still has the chance of getting away to France as his former lover and friend Robbie urges him to. It is Bosie who talks him into staying in order to face the trial, and win their cause – when already it is more than clear that there is no case, that he will be imprisoned and doing hard labour if he dares to stay.
Two years later: The second scene starts (just like the first scene began with the passionate lovemaking between a servant and a maid at the hotel) with a couple in bed – but Bosie isn’t intimate with the broken and tired Wilde, he is in an embrace with a pretty Italian fisherman in Naples. and when he realises that Wilde’s ill wife has stopped sending money (the one condition being that Oscar stops seeing Bosie) and his own mother offers him a way back into the high brow family, he takes the opportunity – as he isn’t “an invert” – it’s “just a phase” he’s going through – to which Wilde answers mildly – “no, you’re just a brilliant mimic”. And so it ends – Bosie has succeeded in making his family acknowledge him and “seeing” him and Wilde will spend the rest of his life in exile, alone, because “it isn’t rage that kills, it is a lover’s kiss” and so he kisses Bosie one last time – to release him into his family, his life, to live alone and cast away and without friends.
I would have liked to see more background to Wilde’s story – not just his sick dependency to Bosie, the spoilt brat. I also admit I never thought of sharpp witted and acidic Wilde as a mostly whining, lovesick queen, but I might have had the wrong image in my mind.
The play itself was gripping, but to me it lacked a bit of depth; which was unfortunately not compensated by Everett and Fox. What the audience (both male and female) appreciated very much, though, was the ample use of naked young men (and one woman) who strutted around the stage well built and casually. If they were used to distract from the mostly missing plot, I have to admit they succeeded just fine. 😉