De Profundis – June 2008

6/10

By Oscar Wilde

Directed by Ricahrd Nelson

Venue: Lyttelton Theatre

Date: Monday 16th June 2008

De Profundis is the letter written by Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas during the former’s spell in prison for loving ‘not wisely but too well’. Corin Redgrave started his performance alone on stage, dressed in scruffy and plain clothes of a modern type, but representing prison drab effectively. He scribbled furiously on his notepad, finishing the letter, before turning back to the start and reading it to us as if he were addressing the dear boy himself.

It was a moving performance, bringing out a lot of humour as well as Wilde’s own awareness of his genius, and both his love for and unhappiness with Bosie, who hasn’t called, hasn’t written, etc. I did find myself nodding a bit during the reading – Oscar does labour some of the points, and if it weren’t for the excellent delivery, he would sound like a petulant old tart at times. But Corin Redgrave’s skill lifts us out of all that.

I was very aware of the circumstances in which the letter was written, the depressing and debilitating nature of the prison regime, especially for someone like Oscar Wilde, and I also learned a great deal about their relationship which I hadn’t known before, especially the monetary cost. It was good to see that Corin was still up to this level of performance, even if his frailty is limiting what he can do physically. The audience was rightly appreciative, and many were standing at the end. Well deserved, and for a very enjoyable performance.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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