WHY did one of the most celebrated men of the 19th century go to a complete stranger for advice when his life was at a critical turning point?
That’s the intriguing question posed about poet and playwright Oscar Wilde in professional drama In Extremis, which is coming to Eastbourne as part of a national tour.
We meet Wilde just before the start of his infamous libel case against the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas.
This was the court case that left Wilde bankrupt – and eventually led to his own imprisonment for gross indecency.
It is March 24, 1895, when he goes to meet a society palm reader, Mrs Robinson, in her London flat. Her opening remark ‘Mr Wilde, why are you here?’ is one that ‘In Extremis’ attempts to answer.
Wilde’s policy throughout his dealings with the law and the establishment was to stay and fight, despite advice of some of his friends that flight would be the better option.
In Extremis, from Kean Productions, is by the highly-acclaimed Neil Bartlett, a former artistic director of the Lyric, Hammersmith. It was commissioned in 2000 by the National Theatre for the centenary of Wilde’s death.
This is the first revival to be seen in London and the South since it was staged by the National. An hour in length, the performance will be followed by an interval and a Q&A session during which the audience will have the opportunity to discuss the play and the art of acting with the cast.