Debate over Oscar Wilde play at Islington King’s Head Theatre

A debate has started over whether a new play at an Islington theatre is the final work of Oscar Wilde.

The showing of Constance at the King’s Head Theatre in Upper Street has been described as world premiere of the final script from the infamous Irish writer.

But his grandson Merlin Holland alleged Wilde only ever provided the synopsis and not a full version.

Adam Spreadbury-Maher, artistic director of Good Night Out, which produced Constance, said: “For Merlin Holland to say it is ‘complete tosh’ that this is from Oscar Wilde is a very black and white viewpoint and you can’t take that position when there is not enough evidence. It has all the essence of an Oscar Wilde play.”

Good Night Out claimed Wilde gave a more detailed working draft to an American actress Cora Brown Potter before his death in 1900. She passed it onto Guillot de Saix who produced a French manuscript.

The English translation was reportedly destroyed during the Second World War – but years later Wilde enthusiast Charles Osborne translated the French version which had been published in a literary magazine in 1954.

The Good Night Out production, based on the translation from Osborne, had its world premiere on Tuesday (Sep14) last week.

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Mr Spreadbury-Maher said: “Vyvyan Holland said in 1954 ‘there’s a significant amount of dialogue in this play which bears the authenticity mark of my father’s hand and that has not been disputed.

“This is a fantastic discovery and very exciting for anyone interested in the work of Oscar Wilde.”

It was reportedly written following his release from prison in 1897 after being jailed for homosexuality.

“This is from a broken man and gone is the floury language from before, to be replaced by straight to the heart words,” said Mr Spreadbury-Maher.

The storyline is set in a country house owned by a rich industrialist Daventry and his loyal wife Constance.

He has an affair with a house guest and the latter part of the play covers the scandal.

Constance, featuring actors Ellie Bevan and James Vaughan, runs until October 22 and shows at 7.15pm start from Monday to Thursday.

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