EdFringe 2018 Review: Simon Callow in De Profundis

Simon Callow in De Profundis
Rating: ★★★★

Venue: Assembly Rooms – Music Hall

Simon Callow’s latest one man show to hit the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a reading of De Profundis – Irish playwright Oscar Wilde’s searing letter to lover and companion Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas. Callow passionately conveys Wilde’s deep-rooted attached to Bosie and reflects on how this affected his life, leading up to his two year imprisonment for gross indecency.

De Profundis
, one of Wilde’s final works, was penned during the last month of the author’s imprisonment and explores the run-up to this prison sentence with ferocious wit, sentiment and anger. Interestingly, Wilde was not permitted to send this letter in his incarceration – making the riled sentiment all the more frustrating and passionate. Upon his release, Wilde and Bosie would be reunited in Naples, before parting when Wilde went to Paris – where he’d ultimately die penniless and in exile.

Callow is a tremendous orator and with a simply lit stage – with a chair as its only prop, the actor is a commanding presence when channelling Wilde’s words of anger, heartache and passion. After all, it was Bosie’s father’s influence that saw the playwright arrested whilst his young muse did little to intervene – Callow taps into this complex bittersweet emotion that was obviously felt. Wilde’s writing conveys much about human nature and Callow makes a magnificent vessel for this poignant prose. Praise should go to the actor’s ability to commit ninety minutes of fast-paced vocabulary and language to memory. No mean feat.

With Callow’s excellent take on De Profundis and Rupert Everett’s sublime cinematic account of Wilde’s last years, The Happy Prince, this has been a stellar year for fans of The Picture of Dorian Gray author. De Profundis is theatre at its most sharp, intelligent and masterfully performed.