The Judas Kiss

Written on April 5th, 2016

The Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name

The Judas kiss is a phrase used to indicate betrayal.  Judas Iscariot was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, who supposedly loved Jesus, yet Judas betrayed Jesus to the jealous high priests who wanted to destroy him.  Judas kissed Jesus, feigning love, but this action indicated to the priests who Jesus was.  Today we might say he put a knife in his back or he threw him under the bus.  For the betrayal, Judas was given 30 pieces of silver.

Similarly, Lord Alfred Douglas, or Bosie as he was known, betrayed Oscar Wilde for money.  The play, The Judas Kiss, now on stage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, is about that betrayal.

Oscar apparently loved Bosie, and continued to love him, even after Bosie was responsible for having him imprisoned, basically for being gay.  When Oscar was released from jail, he again met up with Bosie, and they continued their relationship.  Eventually, when Bosie’s mother offers him money to leave Oscar, Bosie kisses him goodbye.

Act one of the play is all about Oscar’s decision to let the police take him to jail, while the second act is Oscar’s and Bosie’s life together after the jail sentence is completed.  The stories in both acts are filled with debate over what is to be done and fraught with disagreements.  Yet the wit and clever repartee for which Oscar Wilde’s work is known, is apparent throughout this play, as well.

Wilde is, of course, famous for his plays The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere’s Fan and The Ideal Husband among others, as well as his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.   He was a brilliant writer, known for his comedic satire. This play is a compelling look at two different times in Wilde’s life.

Rupert Everett brings Wilde to life, tossing off Wilde’s witty lines brilliantly. Everett has made it his life’s passion to portray Wilde, and his talent for it is evident. Judas Kiss

Charlie Rowe gives us a compelling Bosie, a strange character who is both likeable yet selfish.  At times, one wonders how he held Oscar’s affection.

Before the play, I received a warning from Mirvish: “Audience Advisory: Mature themes; sexual content; nudity.”  My theatre companion for the evening and I agreed that we had no problem with nudity and sex as long as it was integral to the plot, and not gratuitous.  Well, the sex in the opening scene, between the maid and the servant at the hotel was not necessary, unless the playwright simply wanted to prove that it was a time and place of loose sexual mores.  Later when Bosie’s partner of the night is on stage naked for an extended period of time, it also seemed unnecessary.  It would have been sufficient for him to make one nude stage crossing and then pull on shorts or wrap up in a sheet the way Bosie did.   Nevertheless, the nudity should not keep anyone who is interested in Oscar Wilde from seeing the show.

A fascinating story about two particular times in an interesting man’s life.  My only concern with this play is that it doesn’t tell us enough about Oscar Wilde.

The Judas Kiss continues with eight shows a week at Ed Mirvish Theatre until May 1.  Call Ticket King 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit for tickets.

Photo:  Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde in The Judas Kiss. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

The Judas Kiss
By David Hare
Directed by Neil Armfield
Performed by Elliot Balchin, Jessie Hills, Alister Cameron, Cal MacAninch, Rupert Everett, Charlie Rowe, Tom Colley.
Produced by Chichester Festival Theatre and David Mirvish
Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto
March 22 to May 1, 2016
Reviewed by Mary Alderson



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