Based on the recent discovery of two court case transcripts, The Trials of Oscar Wilde looks at the aftermath of Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Ernest… It was extremely successful, but just a few months after opening night, Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labour.
But what led to his demise? Was it his own defence that convicted him, or was he unfairly treated? Wilde’s own accusations of libel against the Marquis of Queensberry are perhaps to blame for the Marquis then accusing him of sodomy, disproving his own words that he was ‘made for exceptions, not for laws’.
Co-written by Wilde’s grandson Merlin Holland, this play is a fascinating insight into the life of this esteemed writer. John Gorick is fantastically pompous as Oscar Wilde, delivering a flamboyant, yet calculated performance that is utterly believable.
Rupert Mason and William Kempsell make up the rest of the cast, taking on all number of roles, including maid, rent boy and barrister. These changes provide some of the limited humour in what is overall quite a serious piece.
It’s very interesting, but there’s little purpose to Act II, which drags slightly and it feels a bit too long. While the piece is funny in places, it lacks Wilde’s own wit and panache which one would expect in a piece about his life.
However, anyone who is a fan of Oscar Wilde will enjoy learning more about his life and for that reason it is definitely worth seeing.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes