Posts Tagged ‘Freddie Fox’

I’ve always thought this was Oscar Wilde’s best play, largely because it has more bite than his other social satires and because the themes of corruption, honour and morals are with us forever. Peter Hall’s 1992 production proved its enduring appeal on tour in the UK, on Broadway and in and out of the West End several times. It’s the third of the four plays in Dominic Dromgoole’s Classic Spring season, and it brings the season alive.

Mrs Cheveley, recently returned from Vienna, attempts to blackmail politician Sir Robert Chiltern, threatening to make public a letter proving he leaked information to enable someone to gain by the timely acquisition of shares, unless he speaks favourably in parliament about a project she and her friends have a vested interest in. She embroils his wife, a former school friend who takes a moral stance, and his friend Viscount Goring, a bit of a playboy with designs on Chiltern’s sister and ward, who tries to wrong-foot her. It’s very well plotted and littered with clever, witty lines from the second most quotable playwright, after Shakespeare.

I loved Frances Barber as the manipulative Mrs Cheveley, relishing her Machiavellian scheming, and I was very impressed by Freddie Fox as Viscount Goring, a role that fits him perfectly. Having his real dad Edward Fox play his stage dad gave the father and son sniping an added frisson. I haven’t seen Sally Bretton on stage and I wouldn’t have expected this to be her sort of role, but she plays Lady Chiltern really well. It’s a big supporting cast, most of whom we only see in the first act, within which it was lovely to see Susan Hampshire as Lady Markby. As with the previous two plays, there’s music between scenes, this time with Samuel Martin, Viscount Goring’s footman, playing Jason Carr’s music superbly on violin.

Simon Higlett’s versatile gold set is beautiful and his costumes gorgeous. Jonathan Church’s staging gave the play more edge and pungency than I remember. The whole production oozes quality and propels the season to another level altogether.

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I think I might be turning into someone who only likes the second half of plays. Perhaps I’m slowing down, taking longer to get into them.  Maybe I should give up on first halves and turn up at the interval (where there is one); it would be a spin on the strategy of a man I met in Edinburgh once who only went to the first half of everything – though that was so that he could fit more in.

Anyway, the second half of Judas Kiss is a lot better than the first. It’s set in Italy after Oscar Wilde’s release from prison. Wilde at last realises that Bosie’s a complete shit, albeit a bit late. The first half in the Cadogan Hotel takes place on the eve of Wilde’s arrest and it all seemed a bit of a muddle to me, trying to say and do too much at the expense of depth and characterisation.

Rupert Everett hasn’t exactly been prolific on stage since his West End debut in Another Country 30 years ago; I think I’ve only seen him twice since. Anyway, he plays Wilde brilliantly and a whole lot better than Liam Neeson in the first outing of this play in 1998. Every other role, including Freddie Fox’s Bosie, is mere support (or decoration) though they are all acted well. The design was disappointing and somehow looked low-budget and tacky on the Hampstead Theatre stage.

The play came at the end of an extraordinary 10 years for playwright David Hare in which he produced six classic ‘state of the nation’ plays – The Secret Rapture, Racing Demon, Murmuring Judges, The Absence of War, Skylight and Amy’s View – and it wasn’t a patch on any of them – and it still isn’t.

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