Wilde’s trial for 'gross indecency' is infamous, heralded by some as a turning point for modern gay rights, and by others as the senseless ruining of a brilliant career. The new rendition of The Trials Of Oscar Wilde at Greenwich Theatre certainly captures Wilde’s famous wit, which shines through John Gorick’s wonderful portrayal. Wilde’s poetic prose is incongruous to the legal language of the trial and the quick jibes between the prosecutor and Wilde create much of the comic enjoyment of the play.
Beneath the sheen of witticisms, the play also managed to draw out some of the nuances of the Wilde case, with an exploration of how Wilde was criticised for his relationships with men of a lower class. This was exacerbated in a brilliant performance by Benjamin Darlington of a rent boy who demonstrated the tension between male lover and prostitute in a world where neither of these roles would have been acceptable. Reading the letters from Wilde to Bowsie in a monologue-esque style was also a lovely touch which brought the disappointment and love of the letters into sharp relief.
For the most part, the comedy of the play overshadowed the tragedy, which was a shame as we only got momentary glances into the true horror of the trial, with the auctioning of his children's toys a particularly poignant moment. However, it was nice to see a play that did not simply portray Wilde’s life as 'a long and lovely suicide' as some critics have called it. The play did slightly fall into a stereotyped view of Wilde’s suffering: the overtly sexual monologues during the trial drew on a letter written almost two years after the trial, when Wilde’s life had already been shaped by the hardships of prison. I would have liked to have seen these monologues used to add depth to the current situation Wilde faced, rather than transposing his words from later in life.
Overall, this play is an excellent exploration of the trial of Oscar Wilde, that adds enough new nuance and drama to be worth seeing even – for the well worn Oscar Wilde fan.
The play is at Greenwich Theatre until the 6th of April. Tickets can be booked here.
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor