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In Extremis

Published Tuesday 20 November 2012 at 10:25 by Jonathan Lovett

Two colourful individuals, well versed in using the arts of deception to profit from a willing public, dance around each other on the night of March 24, 1895.

That was the evening Oscar Wilde met a palm reader called Mrs Robinson. Little is known of their actual conversation but the date was a pivotal one: just over a month since his most popular play, The Importance of Being Earnest, had opened, and just over a week before the cause celebre trial which was to result in Wilde’s ultimate ruin.

Perhaps the predictions of Mrs Robinson persuaded Wilde to make the fatal decision of fight rather than flight? Who knows. But from this intriguing snippet Neil Bartlett has fashioned a diverting two-hander who first came to light in a double-bill with De Profundis at the National Theatre 12 years ago.

Deception, charlatans and masks pervade the piece - “It is not wise to show my face to the world,” Wilde says at one point - but Bartlett skilfully weaves in moments of genuine connection between the two, while glimpses of heartfelt passion frame the ersatz emotion.

A footnote to the Wildean canon, this is still a perfectly whimsical way to wind down from work, enhanced by two elegant performances from Kate Copeland and Nigel Fairs.

In their studied mannerisms and movements both are believable as products of polite fin de siecle society, though Fairs does seem slightly more at home with his electric cigarette - posing rather than proclaiming.

Production information

King's Head, London, November 18-December 9

Neil Bartlett
Caroline Devlin
Kean Productions
Kate Copeland, Nigel Fairs
Running time:

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014