The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings








Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review
The Trials of Oscar Wilde

"When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers." — Oscar Wilde
The Trials of Oscar Wilde
John Gorick as Oscar Wilde (Photo: Evolutions Photo)
Oscar Wilde's only grandchild, Merlin Holland has co-written with producer, John O'Connor, this play about the three trials, the last of which saw Wilde sentenced to two year's hard labour. The prison regime broke his health and he would be dead in Paris within five years.

The first trial sees Wilde as the accuser, not the accused, when he takes the Marquess of Queensberry to court for libel after he leaves a card at Wilde's club, the Albermarle, saying Oscar Wilde "posing somdomite" (sic). Wilde withdraws the libel case against Lord Alfred Douglas' father but is prosecuted himself, arrested the same day for "gross indecency"after Queensberry's counsel send all the case papers to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The play opens with Wilde hearing the words of one of his plays and with the unpleasant Queensberry (Rupert Mason) delivering a bunch of rotten vegetables to the stage door of the Theatre Royal Haymarket where Wilde's play An Ideal Husband had just opened. It is the letters and literature which dominate the first trial as Wilde explains the letter, subject of an attempted blackmail, which he later published as a sonnet.

Just two actors take all the parts except for John Gorick's remarkable portrayal of Wilde. Rupert Mason plays the waspish Queensberry, and Edward Carson the Irish barrister who prosecuted Wllde, and who had been at school with Wilde. William Kempsell plays Wilde's counsel Sir Edward Clarke QC and many other roles, the working class rent boys who dine with Wilde and who received money and a silver cigarette case. Versatile as these two are in multiple roles, it is John Gorick's haunting performance as the doomed writer that stays with me.

Gorick resembles Wilde: a long face and generous mouth with his hair falling onto his forehead. Tall and foppishly dressed, placing his thumbs in the pockets of a brocade waistcoat, Wilde's words are those from the transcripts of the trials. He starts confidently enough but as the realization of his hubris dawns he gets more and more dejected and hesitant. He realizes he has made a mistake when he says that Bosie's college servant was too ugly to kiss. He is questioned about "the love that dares not speak its name."

The set is a simple iron gate for Wilde in the dock but there are numerous costume and wig changes for the other two actors which are also part of the variety of the production.

Unlike some of the plays and films about Wilde written recently, The Trials of Oscar Wilde does not speculate on the question why Wilde pursued the case against Queensberry and stayed in England when so many of his friends and confidantes advised that he should flee to the continent, certainly as soon as Queensberry was likely to be acquitted. De Profundis, written later, gives us some clues as to Wilde's thinking but it does not form part of this play.

Although the 1890s are called the Naughty Nineties, there is no tolerance for Oscar Wilde as homophobia reigned. I always wonder what great works we were denied because of the loss to literature of the greatest English wit at 45. Wilde's stellar scholastic achievements are read out in the first trial. How sad is it that Wilde was unable to persuade the second jury to acquit him. The jury at the first trial for gross indecency had done just that as they couldn't agree on a verdict. There is a sparkle when Mr Gill is asking Wilde about the cost of the gifts of silver cigarette cases and Wilde replies that they are less expensive that giving jeweled garters to ladies and Mr Gill visibly twitches.

Wilde is left bankrupt after the trials and his belongings from the house in Tite Street Chelsea are auctioned.
The purported recording of Wilde's voice has been judged fake so we do not know what he sounded like although I wonder whether in the upper class delivery there would have been some soft traces of his Dublin upbringing?

The honesty and authenticity of The Trials of Oscar Wilde is striking. Merlin Holland's life's work has been to read and write about all that was written by and to his famous grandfather. John Gorick's strong performance will ensure we remember the words that Wilde actually spoke.

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
The Trials of Oscar Wilde
Written by Merlin Holland and John O'Connor
Directed by Peter Craze

Starring: John Gorick, Rupert Mason, William Kempsall
Set and Costume Design: Dora Schweitzer
Lighting: Duncan Hands
Sound Design: Derek Carlyle
Running time: Two hours 10 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 0844 871 7632
Booking to 8th November 2014
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 14th October 2014 performance at Trafalgar Studios Two Whitehall London SW1A 2DY (Rail/Tube: Charing Cross)
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of The Trials of Oscar Wilde
  • I disagree with the review of The Trials of Oscar Wilde
  • The review made me eager to see The Trials of Oscar Wilde
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2014, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from