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Content by Chloe Nelkin Consulting

The Trials of Oscar Wilde returns for an exciting UK tour – this fascinating production, co-written by Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde’s own grandson, and John O’Connor tells of what actually happened during Wilde’s trials, drawing on the original transcripts.

Only days after the celebrated opening of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, he started legal proceedings against The Marquess of Queensberry for criminal libel – an action which led to three scandalous trials that destroyed his career, wrecked his family and saw him sentenced to two years hard labour.  

The play is adapted from the full transcript of the libel trial in April 1895 (recently discovered by Merlin Holland after 100 years), contemporary newspaper reports and eyewitness accounts.  The Trials of Oscar Wilde enables us to see a full picture of the trials and their shocking aftermath. What happened at the Old Bailey and what did Wilde say? Was he harshly treated or the author of his own downfall? Using the actual words spoken in court, we can feel what it was like to be in the company of a flawed genius – as this less than ideal husband was tragically reduced to a man of no importance.

Co-writer O’Connor comments, Oscar Wilde is many people’s ideal dinner guest but it’s difficult to imagine how he actually spoke. However, thanks to the transcripts of the trials, we can hear Wilde’s true voice in all its exasperating brilliance. It’s exciting to discover that he did talk in perfectly formed epigrams and paradoxes but the Old Bailey was far too dangerous a place to do that. The stakes couldn’t have been higher. Wilde deflects, stumbles and feints like a boxer up against the ropes but he meets his match in the British Establishment. His wit is incomparable, his humanity a triumph but his tragedy makes him immortal.

This production shows Oscar Wilde fighting for his art as well as his life; we see his complexity, wit and deep humanity using the real facts and transcripts. Wilde’s grandson comments, Over the years, there have been a number of attempts to tell the story of my grandfather on stage but none of them has really managed to bring alive the drama of Oscar’s courtroom appearances.

Using the actual words from the libel trial, and with a careful reconstruction of Wilde’s prosecution by the Crown for homosexuality, it’s a chance for audiences to see the real Oscar for the first time. The Trials of Oscar Wilde should be an obligatory part of every young person’s education to teach them the meaning of tolerance and, more than ever in today’s world, about the appalling consequences of blinkered homophobia.

This national tour of The Trials of Oscar Wilde will help to support the important work of the LGBT charity Stonewall in promoting equality. Although Wilde’s trial and imprisonment was 124 years ago, he was only officially pardoned in 2017. However, what happened to Wilde in 1895 is happening to LGBTQIA+ people all over the world today. Stonewall estimates that same-sex relationships are still illegal in 72 countries and in eight of those, they are punishable by death. 

The Trials of Oscar Wilde is hugely enjoyable and thought-provoking. It sheds light on a genius who continues to fascinate us, as well as tapping into current concerns about celebrity trials and the criminalisation of homosexuality as equality takes one step forwards and two back. Wilde aficionados will love it – but the themes reverberate far wider (Entertainment Focus).

John O’Connor        

John is an actor, writer, director and producer, and founded European Arts Company inHe studied Drama at Manchester University before living and working in Japan. He wrote The Trials of Oscar Wilde and adapted The Picture of Dorian Gray with Merlin Holland, both of which had sell-out runs at Trafalgar Studios and are now published by Samuel French. As a director, he has worked on many touring productions in the UK and Italy including The Importance of Being Earnest, Pygmalion, Pride and Prejudice and Waiting for  Godot. As an actor, John has recently been touring his acclaimed one-man version of A Christmas Carol around the UK. He was also in Four Farces at Wilton’s Music Hall (Critic’s Choice in The Times) and had a busy evening playing Sousov, Smirnov, Nikita Ivanich and Lomov in Chekhov’s Shorts on a national and international tour. 

Merlin Holland

Merlin Holland is a biographer and editor and is the only grandchild of Oscar Wilde. For the last 30 years, he has studied and researched Wilde′s life. He is the co‐editor, with Rupert Hart-Davis, of The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, and the editor of Irish Peacock and Scarlet Marquess, the first uncensored version of his grandfather’s 1895 libel trial. He has also written The Wilde Album, a small volume that included hitherto unpublished photographs of Wilde. In 2006, his book Oscar Wilde: A Life in Letters was published, and Coffee with Oscar Wilde, an imagined conversation with Oscar, was released in the autumn of 2007. Holland also wrote A Portrait of Oscar Wilde (2008), which reveals Wilde through manuscripts and letters from the Lucia Moreira Salles collection, located at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.  He is at present finishing a book on the extraordinary ‘afterlife’ of his grandfather from his death to the present day.

The Trials of Oscar Wilde

UK Tour: March - June 2019

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