David Hare’s acclaimed drama The Judas Kiss presents two pivotal moments on the path of Oscar Wilde’s destruction: the day he decides to stay in England and face imprisonment, and the night, after his release two years later, when the lover, Lord Alfred Douglas for whom he risked everything betrays him.
Hare’s script is an exquisite exposition of writing for the stage, in which the cast handles reasonably well. Performances on the whole are quite strong, notably Chris Baldock who renders a convincing dramatic portrait of Wilde that has blended overtones of Stephen Fry and Barry Humphries; and Oliver Coleman who presents a sincere and understated portrayal of Robert ‘Robbie’ Ross. Nigel Langley lacks the aristocratic petulance of Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie), while Soren Jensen, Lauren Murtagh and Zak Zavod provide pivotal support in Act One as the hotel staff, and Nores Cerfeda is a cheekily flirty Galileo Masconi in Act Two.
Jason Cavanagh’s direction is disappointingly clumsy that didnt fully utilise the Theatre Works stage, rendering a claustrophobic performance area with awkward blocking and at times masking key exchanges in the dialogue. The second half of Act Two almost flatlines with the lethargic exchange between Wilde and Bosie, lacking a burning sense of outrage, rendering the ultimate act of betrayal almost anti-climatic.
Nudity is a reoccuring theme in both acts and while suitable in Act Two between Bossie and Galileo, the opening of Act One between Servants Wellesley and Cane came across as gratuitous, a mere titilation and little bearing on the ensuing drama.
Production elements were not up to the usual Mockingbird standard with Cavanagh’s setting looking cheap and not fully realised, lacking any attention to detail with badly applied wallpaper and inconsistent painted finishes, door handles that did not suit the hotels appearance in Act One and flooring that looked incomplete. Appropriate masking would have also assisted in the approaches to the performance area.
Kellie Bray’s props and costumes were exceptionally exquisite fully forming the era, while Rob Sowinski’s lighting on a whole was well lit, though there was some strange transiations happening in Act Two. Noticeably absent on opening night was any form of sound design. One has to question if this was a technical error or a deliberate ommission. Either way it highlighted a number of dead moments and possibly could have lifted the performance to another level.
While there is so much to enjoy about Mockingbird Theatre’s latest production, performances alone should not be an indicator of a good production. In 2013, we were presented with fully executed productions that had an emphasis on attention to detail. I hope The Judas Kiss was just a blip on the 2014 season of productions.
Director / Set design: Jason Cavanagh Featuring: Chris Baldock, Soren Jensen, Oliver Coleman, Nigel Langley, Lauren Murtagh, Zak Zavod, Nores Cerfeda Co-Director / Stage Manager: Celeste Cody Production Manager / Costume & Props: Kellie Bray Lighting Design: Rob Sowinski Set Assistant: Juliet Hindmarsh Assistant Production Manager: Emma Walmsley Stage Manager: Alex Beyer
The Judas Kiss
Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St. Kilda
Performance: Saturday 15 March 2014 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 22 March 2014
Bookings: (03) 9534 3388 or online at: www.theatreworks.org.au
For more information, visit: www.mockingbirdtheatre.com.au for details.
Image: Chris Baldock as Oscar Wilde – courtesy of Mockingbird Theatre