akshara Theatre presents
The Importance of Revoking 377
The Trials of Oscar Wilde
January 4, 5 at 7pm.
Our immediate cause for this performance is obviously the recent Supreme Court ruling that overturned a sensible High Court judgment decriminalizing homosexual and same-sex lovers from the awful consequences of the terrible Section 377.
To do so we are presenting a dramatization of the trials of Oscar Wilde — the witty, successful, fashionable playwright of such theatrical masterpieces as The Importance of Being Ernest and Lady Windermere’s Fan and the controversial novel The Picture of Dorian Grey.
The Solicitor General for the Crown, Frank Lockwood, launched criminal proceedings against Oscar Wilde under Section 377 of the British Penal Code, at the end of the 19th century. The British public was treated to a sordid procession of young male prostitutes, a cross dressing procurer, hotel staff with dirty details, and enough muck to satisfy the most salacious appetite for scandal. As for the aristocracy, it was delight enough to see the man who had made such witty and damning remarks against them in his plays, smeared with his own sexual misdemeanors.
But this was not just a trial against Wilde’s sexual predilection. What was also very much on trial was an alternative intellectual aesthetic, freedom of imagination that dared to cross forbidden boundaries of the concept of beauty, even mysticism.
Wilde was at the height of his career at the time of the trial, but after his conviction, died a broken outcaste at the age of 46, having fled to Paris after his release. His wife Constance and obviously their two children also, tumbled into tragic life-ruining scandal with him.
The trials of Oscar Wilde stand out as much for their condemnation of a man who was ‘different’ as for the extremely witty, often funny and stimulating verbal exchanges between Wilde and the brilliant lawyer Edward Carson. Indeed, Carson’s cross-examination of Wilde is held up for all students of law as a brilliant example of the power of cross-examination – as explained and demonstrated by eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani in a short film clip which will be screened at the start of the evening.
The story bears retelling so as to ensure that this hasty Supreme Court Judgment is challenged and revoked for ever in India, as indeed it was in Britain more than three decades ago.
The Importance of Revoking 377 is directed by Gopal Sharman and performed by Gopal Sharman, Jalabala Vaidya, Sunit Tandon, Angad Thakur, Rakesh Palisetty and others.
Tickets Rs. 250/- available from www.bookmyshow.com and Akshara Theatre.