LONDON – If anyone is familiar with Wildean history at all, one would know that just days after the celebrated opening of The Importance of Being Earnest, he started legal proceedings against The Marquess of Queensberry for criminal libel – a rash action leading to three scandalous trials that would go on to destroy his career, wreck his family and see him sentenced to two years hard labour. Although Wilde’s trial and imprisonment was 124 years ago, he was only officially pardoned in 2017.
Co-written by Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde’s own grandson, and John O’Connor, The Trials of Oscar Wilde returns to the stage for a cross-country UK tour this year. Adapted from the full transcript of the libel trial in April 1895 (recently discovered by Merlin Holland after 100 years), contemporary newspaper reports and eyewitness accounts, The Trials of Oscar Wilde is set to let audiences have a glimpse into what happened during these trials and their shocking aftermath. Using words spoken verbatim during the trial, one will be privy to being in the company of a flawed genius – as this less than ideal husband was tragically reduced to a man of no importance.
Says co-writer O’Connor: “Oscar Wilde is many people’s ideal dinner guest but it’s difficult to imagine how he actually spoke. However, thanks to the transcripts of the trials, we can hear Wilde’s true voice in all its exasperating brilliance. It’s exciting to discover that he did talk in perfectly formed epigrams and paradoxes but the Old Bailey was far too dangerous a place to do that. The stakes couldn’t have been higher. Wilde deflects, stumbles and feints like a boxer up against the ropes but he meets his match in the British Establishment. His wit is incomparable, his humanity a triumph but his tragedy makes him immortal.”
Says fellow co-writer Holland: “Over the years, there have been a number of attempts to tell the story of my grandfather on stage but none of them has really managed to bring alive the drama of Oscar’s courtroom appearances. Using the actual words from the libel trial, and with a careful reconstruction of Wilde’s prosecution by the Crown for homosexuality, it’s a chance for audiences to see the real Oscar for the first time. The Trials of Oscar Wilde should be an obligatory part of every young person’s education to teach them the meaning of tolerance and, more than ever in today’s world, about the appalling consequences of blinkered homophobia.”
Playing Oscar Wilde in the poignant production is John Gorick, and Rupert Mason as Edward Carson, alongside Patrick Knox and Benjamin Darlington, who join the cast of this production. This tour is also set to help support the work of the LGBT charity Stonewall in promoting equality. What happened to Wilde may have happened over a hundred years ago in 1895, yet some things haven’t changed, and LGBTQIA+ people all over the world today continue to face persecution. Stonewall estimates that same-sex relationships are still illegal in 72 countries and in eight of those, they are punishable by death. Catch The Trials of Oscar Wilde, and let this production paint a picture of this brilliant, flawed genius fighting for his art as well as his life, and bear witness to his complexity, wit and deep humanity.
The Trials of Oscar Wilde tours the UK from 2nd March to 1st June 2019, stopping in London’s Greenwich Theatre from 2nd to 6th April 2019. For full list of tour dates and tickets, visit their website here