THIS is a beautiful and eloquent play. So witty that it could have been written by Oscar Wilde. It is Wildean.

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The Judas Kiss by David Hare at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 17. Review by ANGELA SINGER.

David Hare has written two parts that male actors will now aspire to – Rupert Everett and Freddie Fox having defined them.

Director Neil Armfield in this revival has given us a staging and a cast that is a tour de force. A packed audience at Cambridge Arts Theatre knew it was lucky to be seeing the play on a short tour between its sell-out run at The Hampstead Theatre and its move to the West End, where it is certain to be a hot ticket.

Rupert Everett is majestic as the larger than life Irishman. (“We have no rights – one is only granted a licence”) He believes he is Wilde and so do we. Everett doesn’t act Wilde, he resurrects him.

Here is the much-quoted one at his sharpest and yet most stubborn, so foolish and so wise all at once. We see a man so set on his own destruction that he can trust no one else with the task.

Freddie Fox is exquisite as Lord Alfred Douglas. His posie Bosie is joy to see: balletic, flowing, but never, ever camp. His Bosie is petulant, angry, persuasive – often funny but never he degenerates into parody. His ruthless selfishness has its own divine integrity. It is complete. He doesn’t digress from it or trouble much to hide it. He cherishes it and it is marvellous to watch.

The Judas Kiss focuses on just two pivotal moments in Oscar Wilde’s colourful life. It opens as he has lost the action for criminal libel that he has brought against Bosie’s father, the Marquess of Queensbury , who had called Wilde a sodomite. Instead, Wilde is about to be arrested for indecency with a string of rent boys lined up to testify against him.

Wilde has enthusiastically helped this turn of events. Examined in court, he not resist denying that he had kissed a boy at Oxford because the boy was “Peculiarly plain.”

He could have left the country. He observes that every other “invert” has.

“The takings from London restaurants will be counted in pennies and the opera will be dead. I had no idea the diaspora was so large.”

In the second half, we see the end of Wilde’s relationship with Bosie at their home in Naples. Wilde’s friend Robert Ross (played deftly by Cal Macaninch) who once begged Oscar to flee from England now begs him to return to it. When Robbie says that he has become an art dealer, Wilde exclaims sardonically what a fine business opportunity that is. “Ignorance, snobbery and greed are held in perfect equilibrium.”

Bosie, who was also a writer and poet, left little literary legacy – except the phrase: The love that dare not speak its name.” Wilde dared. His imprisonment led ultimately to his fame rather than his infamy His life was his art. “Before one has suffered,” he says, “it’s all guesswork.”

This vigorous, vibrant, witty, gritty and engaging production will stand out as one of the gems of British theatre.

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