De Profundis

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‘De Profundis’ a one-act, one-man musical written by Paul Dale-Vickers with additional lyrics by Alastair Brookshaw.

At Gillygate Shed, York.

20th July, 2016.

‘The love that dare not speak its name’

‘I became a spendthrift of my genius and to waste an eternal youth gave me a curious joy’.

De Profundis’ is a powerful dramatisation of the 50,000-word letter Oscar Wilde wrote to his long-term lover, Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) from his prison cell in Reading Jail in 1897. The title translates from Latin as ‘from the depths.’ Two years previously, Wilde had been imprisoned for acts of gross indecency with other males. The letter is a conceit of Wilde’s way of rationalising his suffering. It is petulant and at first massively arrogant and self-pitying  – a mixture of Wilde rants against Douglas for his cruelty and indifference and the hatred for his father.  So we are taken on a journey of the pressures from Bosie’s influential family and from the homophobic state.

The letter captures Wilde’s early months of imprisonment when his mother died. Her death was terrible to me,’ he laments; ‘but I, once a lord of language, have no words with which to express my anguish and my shame’.

From the start, De Profundis , Paul Dale-Vickers’s talented tenor voice draws  the audience into Wilde’s maelstrom of emotions.  His haunting voice and bruised self demands your attention.  As Paul says, he allows the rhythm of the words dictate the shape of the music and allowed the sentiment to drive the chords and melodies. ‘Much of the lyrical content is taken directly from the letter, with some invention required to tie ideas together.’

Douglas had betrayed and forsaken Wilde in many important ways.  Eventually, Wilde recognises that Douglas’ faults and actions caused him pain and ruin. Surprisingly, Wilde is quick to acknowledge much of the blame on himself: ‘I became the spendthrift of me genius.’

Although Dale –Vickers bares no actual physical resemblance to Oscar Wilde, it matters little. The audience silently contemplates that even today, more than 100 years later; prisoners are still being made of those whose love dare not speak its name. The performance is truly mesmerising and a brutal reminder of the suffering of one of the great wordsmiths of our time.

A pity the audience were merely twenty in the tent.

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De Profundis won the ‘New Musical Project’ at Leicester Square Theatre in 2014 beating over a hundred entries and receiving unanimous critical acclaim. Since then it has been performed many times including a recent short run in Shanghai.