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Rupert Everett warms up for Wilde

It’s a part that calls for high status, wit, the ability to show a spirit broken

Isabel Lloyd | September/October 2012

Like a satellite of some giant planet, Rupert Everett has been circling Oscar Wilde for years. He may even have been the saving of him. In the decade and a half since Everett turned Hollywood on to gay in "My Best Friend’s Wedding”, virtually the only oases in a CV otherwise barren of pleasure are his born-to-it turns as Lord Goring in “An Ideal Husband" and Algernon in “The Importance of Being Earnest”. Now he’s finally found backing for his own long-gestated script of Wilde’s life, filming soon with Everett directing himself in the lead, alongside Colin Firth and Emily Watson. Before then, he’s slipping into fur coat and carnation at Hampstead in a revival of David Hare’s "The Judas Kiss", a play the New York Times described as a “dense marble monument” to Wilde’s martyrdom. 

It’s a part that calls for high status, wit, the ability to show a spirit broken, and what it means to be a public figure skewered by public disapproval. All home turf for Everett, an actor who claims his career was ruined by coming out. In truth he was as much to blame, dissipating his early promise by fiddling about with modelling, trying to be a pop star, writing novels. For years there was more fun to be had from reading the scattergun indiscretions of his interviews than watching him act. 

He still has his talent, though: that simple, amused belief in his own right to be on stage, the ability to signal flamboyance with the arch of an eyebrow. And while he seems to have been mucking about with his once-glorious face—in recent photographs he looks like he’s wearing a Rupert Everett mask, made of cheese—he still has that dragonish glare pinned above a girlish mouth, hovering between pout and tremble. Hare has Wilde describe himself, post-Reading gaol, as resembling “a pederast Anglican bishop after a night in a distillery”. Time for Everett to slip on his mitre. ~ Isabel Lloyd

The Judas Kiss Hampstead, London, from Sept 6th; then touring

THEATRE AT A GLANCE

The River (Royal Court, London, Oct 18th to Nov 17th). Dominic Cooke’s penultimate season as artistic director is packed with coups, not least this new play from Jez Butterworth, last seen counting the awards from “Jerusalem”. No advance tickets, almost as little advance publicity ("A remote cabin on the cliffs, a man and a woman, and a moonless night"), but still likely to be the talking point of the season.

Glengarry Glen Ross (Gerald Schoenfeld, New York, from Oct 16th). Second life of a salesman: 20 years after playing the rising estate agent Ricky Roma on film, Al Pacino returns to Mamet’s greatest play, this time as the sweary old dog Shelley Levene, fighting the pack all the way down. 

This House (Cottesloe, London, from Sept 18th). James Graham’s timely new play about the machinations of two Labour whips which allowed Harold Wilson’s minority government to cling to power in 1974. Philip Glenister, who can be dour on stage, makes his National debut, opposite the sparkier Phil Daniels.

Blue/Orange (Theatre Royal, Brighton,  from Sept 13th, then touring). Joe Penhall’s bitter pill of a comedy about race, madness and health-service politics is revived on tour before heading for the West End. Robert Bathurst, late of "Downton Abbey", swaps the patrician’s white tie for a psychiatrist’s white coat. 

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Abbey, Dublin, from Sept 27th). Back to Oscar again, as Neil Bartlett, who once applied his magical theatricality to an acclaimed version of “An Ideal Husband”, premieres his adaptation of Wilde’s dank little novel about sex, sin and vanity.

Rebecca (Broadhurst, New York, from Oct 30th). The musical version of Daphne du Maurier’s archetypal melodrama—held up for six months by lack of funds—finally hits Broadway. And yes, they really do burn Manderley down live on stage; pack a hankie and a fire extinguisher. ~ IL

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