|The Judas Kiss|
Cover of the published play (1998)
|Written by||David Hare|
|Date premiered||12 March 1998|
|Place premiered||Playhouse Theatre|
|Subject||Oscar Wilde's decline at the hands of his lover Bosie|
Act 1: London, 1895
Oscar Wilde's spoiled and impetuous young lover Bosie has succeeded in instigating Wilde to sue Bosie's father in court for insulting him as a "sodomite". The loss of the suit opens the way for Wilde being criminally indicted for gross indecency. Wilde has tacit government permission to flee the country to avoid arrest, trial, and imprisonment, but the childish Bosie insists that he stay and defend their honour.
Act 2: Italy, 1897
Wilde is doing the one thing his friends wanted him to avoid, namely reuniting with the unbelievably selfish Bosie after his difficult two-year incarceration. Wilde, a broken man, is holed up in exile from the UK in a rat-infested hotel in Naples.
The play was originally produced by the Almeida Theatre Company and premiered in London's Playhouse Theatre in the West End, where it ran from 12 March to 18 April 1998. It then transferred to Broadway in New York at the Broadhurst Theatre, where it ran from 23 April through 1 August 1998. The play was rushed into production in London in order to open on Broadway in time for the Tonys. The run starred Liam Neeson as Wilde and Tom Hollander as Bosie, and was directed by Richard Eyre.
The Judas Kiss was revived at London's Hampstead Theatre beginning 6 September 2012, starring Rupert Everett as Wilde and Freddie Fox as Bosie, and directed by Neil Armfield. The play ran at the Hampstead through 13 October 2012, toured the UK and Dublin, and then transferred to the West End at the Duke of York's Theatre on 9 January 2013 in a limited run through 6 April 2013.
Everett won the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Actor in a Play, and was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Actor. In 2016 the production, still starring Everett and with Charlie Rowe as Bosie, ran in North America for seven weeks in Toronto and five weeks at BAM in New York City.
The play had its Australian premiere in 1999 at Sydney's Belvoir St Theatre. It was directed by Neil Armfield, who later directed the 2012 London revival, and featured Bille Brown in the role of Oscar Wilde. In 2014, a new production directed by Jason Cavanagh and produced by the Mockingbird Theatre Company was staged at Theatreworks in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda, featuring Chris Baldock as Wilde and Nigel Langley as Bosie.
The initial 1998 run of The Judas Kiss proved popular with audiences but less so with critics. The 2012 London revival however was both critically and popularly acclaimed. Michael Billington in The Guardian observed of the revival:
Other critics concurred with Billington's sentiment; Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard echoed that "Time has been kinder to The Judas Kiss (1998) than some initial judgments: on second viewing it's revealed as a rich, resonant piece of writing, which at last boasts the ideal cast."