“Hang the night with stars so that I may wait abroad in the darkness without stumbling”
It is rather pleasing to see that the winner of a new musical theatre prize – inspiringly named the New Musical Project – is something that tests the boundaries of what we conventionally see labelled as musicals and hopefully will inspire others to consider more adventurous work. The winner of the inaugural prize was De Profundis, Paul Dale Vickers’ adaptation of the letter written by Oscar Wilde from his prison cell in Reading jail to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, the man who helped to put him there.
As such, it forms a musical monologue, just shy of an hour as Wilde recounts the state of affairs that has led him here, the hurts inflicted on him by Bosie, Bosie’s father and an unflinchingly moralistic society that has broken up his own family. But he also speaks of the power of love, and with typically philosophical élan, even forgiveness as he explores the more spiritual dimension of the punishment he has been forced to endure. It would certainly help to know a little of the circumstances in advance but this is powerful material regardless.
And Vickers’ interpretation really is inspired. The flowing elegance of much of the music, performed here by MD Michael Riley, reflects the melancholy mood of much of Wilde’s musings and is frequently hauntingly beautiful. Jagged interludes of anger add texture to the score and avoid any too-long passages of self-indulgence but to be honest, Alastair Brookshaw’s performance is so perfectly conceived that one could listen to his heartfelt contributions for a good deal longer into the night.
Stuart Saint’s production wisely avoids trying to impersonate Wilde, so Brookshaw is liberated to simply sing as a man, any man who has loved and lost, indeed there’s little trace of the Wildean wit for which he is so famous now which only adds to the pathos of the whole piece. The minimal staging focuses us entirely on keenly-felt emotion and with writing this good from Vickers, there’s excellent reward in doing time at Leicester Square.
Running time: 55 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 8th June
Photo: Steve Ullathorne