Review: The Trials of Oscar Wilde, Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham

The Trials of Oscar Wilde
The Trials of Oscar Wilde
Poet and author Benjamin Zephaniah

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Poor, poor Oscar. He just didn’t see that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

And that terrible plunge from acclaim to infamy is superbly chronicled in this excellent production.

Written by Merlin Holland, grandson of the flawed Irish genius, it draws on court transcripts to chart Wilde’s downfall through the two trials which ended with him sentenced to two years imprisonment and hard labour.

John Gorick is a wholly-convincing Oscar Wilde, his every cleverer-than-you observation and dandified gesture leading us to believe we are seeing the great man himself sink from cocksure to unsure as the ‘values’ dictated by a society of brutes and illiterates inexorably catch up with him.

William Kempsell as Wilde’s brief and Rupert Mason as the barrister who pursues him with clinical intent form the acting trinity that makes this play so engrossing, with Kempsell and Mason doubling variously as rent boys, policemen, petty crooks and even a chambermaid at the Savoy Hotel.

Together, the three leave us captivated as they bring this Victorian tragedy to life. At the end, we are left shedding a tear for Wilde, a victim of the age but also of his own misplaced belief that he was indestructibly above the cruel world in which he lived. Poor, poor Oscar. Rich, rich theatre.