The brothers Wildeby: Richard Woulfe
The curtains open in the front room of a house, where Willy Wilde is living with his mother, Speranza, and his wife Lily. Oscar arrives alone, seeking shelter, just after an inconclusive trial in relation to his homosexuality. The play explores the brothers’ troubled childhood, and how they both ignored rather than worked through these emotional conflicts. […]
The curtains open in the front room of a house, where Willy Wilde is living with his mother, Speranza, and his wife Lily. Oscar arrives alone, seeking shelter, just after an inconclusive trial in relation to his homosexuality.
The play explores the brothers’ troubled childhood, and how they both ignored rather than worked through these emotional conflicts. One also glimpses a cross section of the upper middle class family milieu of the last ‘800, in particular how the sexual indiscretions of their father, Sir William Wilde, were never discussed within the family.
The two brothers are in a vulnerable situation. Willy has failed both as a barrister and as a journalist, and now seeks comfort from a bottle of whisky; Oscar has suddenly fallen from a successful playwright to being vilified in public, with the strong possibility of a prison sentence.
A derisive balled (which was doing the rounds in Ireland while Willy and Oscar were both children) recalling the public disgrace of Sir William is a kind of tragic chorus which inexorably destroys the possibility of reconciliation between the sons.
Lily, Willy’s second wife, is the only character who seems realistic about his predicament: while his brother and mother insist he must stay and fight to clear his name in court, she suggests that it is possible to leave the country.
The continuous interaction of pretence and the theatrical way of behaviour calls to mind “The Importance of Being Earnest” [Honest]. Indeed, specific lines from the play, which depict the relationship between the two brothers, Algy and Jack, are used. But one can also find ironic reference to the self-conscious rhetoric of Oscar Wilde’s classicism, and from the dramatic poetics of Reading Gaol. As well as a return to the childhood innocence of the Tales, which Woulfe reminds us of in the story of a teddy bear!
Richard Woulfe is from Limerick (Ireland), but has lived in London for many years. In 1996 he wrote No Smoke Without Fire for radio. In 2001 a stage play of his, Homehelp, ran for three weeks at the White Bear Theatre – London. In 2011, His Most-Obedient Servant, was produced for radio by The Wireless Theatre Company. In 2012, RTE Radio (Ireland’s national radio station) broadcasted A muse is it I am?, a play based in Trieste on the relationship between James Joyce and his partner/wife. Other pieces have been performed in London, Belfast and elsewhere.
Richard Woulfe often writes from a historical perspective, combining humour with a serious message. The Brothers Wilde falls into that category.