Wretched Little Brat plans to unpack Wildean stereotypes in post-referendum Ireland

A new play written and directed by Brian Merriman, Director of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival and Mr Gay Ireland opens next month at the Sean O’Casey Theatre, Dublin.

Wretched Little Brat

Wretched Little Brat

The play runs from the 16th to the 21st of November and you can get your tickets at www.gaytheatre.ie

“Wretched Little Brat”, a new play about the lovers of Oscar Wilde stars Sean Doyle (Callum, Fair City) as Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas and David Flynn as Robbie Ross, the play charts the lives of Wilde’s closest associates up to 1945, in a frank telling of the aftermath of one of Victorian England’s most scandalous courtroom downfalls. Brian Graham Higgins plays Wilde with a team of four actors (Ailish Leavy, Anne Doyle, Stephan Gorman and Eli Caldwell) playing ‘The Mothers’, ‘The Wives’, ‘The Older and The Younger Men’ – all caught up in this spiral of litigation, acrimony, morality and loyalty.

Presented in a special winter programme by the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, this new play, from the writer of “Eirebrushed”, a LGBT story of the Easter Rising, challenges the view of the Wilde legend as being more than the story of the vengeful Douglas – dubbed a “wretched little brat” by George Bernard Shaw.

“In post-referendum Ireland, it is now possible to examine this flawed historical source that shocked a moralistic society and hindered LGBT progress for a century and still does, in law, religion, work and family life,” said playwright Brian Merriman. “This new full length play challenges our lingering inherited perceptions – that Bosie’s manic control and endless destructive appetites still dominate an entire LGBT culture today.”

The documentary drama, based on historical testimony, finally informs an honest exploration today in modern Ireland by exposing the source of our stereotypes and prejudices. “Are Bosie and Wilde’s class ridden excesses still an accurate reference point for society as the ‘atypical gay life’ or is it just the unique life story of a ‘Wretched Little Brat’?” Merriman concluded.

Since 1895, the only story of “gay life” openly known and discussed was the “scandalous” life of Oscar Wilde. His public humiliation at the height of his theatrical fame was a mix of class, the homophobic public school educated establishment, hypocritical Victorian moralism and Wilde’s own sexual intoxication with a young man of “boyish good looks” and uncontrollable temper – “Bosie”, Lord Alfred Douglas.
Wilde’s great ego and vanity fell foul of the compromised British judiciary in the most public of all sexual humiliations, which exposed the classless ghetto that thrives in criminalised times. As the “only story” spoken of, his bizarre life was the main public reference point which then defined all gay life and with it bestowed all the negative stereotypes that generations of LGBT people have had to justify and defend themselves from, for another century.

These 120-year-old stereotypes emerged again in the recent Irish marriage equality referendum, in an attempt to maintain a lesser status on same sex love, commitment and family life. The play challenges why LGBT people are still expected to justify their love against the prevailing power of these historical excessive stereotypes, promoted in the secret world of unspoken twisted morality?

In any constructed ghetto all behaviours tend to morph into one entity – that of their one common denominator – criminalisation. Douglas’s desires, uncontrolled sexual and vengeful appetites and lust for exploitation, beguiled the weaker Wilde and threw up lasting images of shame, exploitation and promiscuity that would overshadow any attempt to achieve equality in law in later years.
This frank play engages with many famous names from arts, politics and literature. 2015 is the 120th anniversary year of the Wilde trials which prevailed in law and condemned many other gay men to imprisonment and ostracism.

What of the life of Robbie Ross, Wilde’s first love and literary executor and the many others who fought to balance the personal devastation arising from the trials? His struggles remain largely untold… until now.

The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival (est. 2004) continues not just to give a platform to new voices in theatre but also to unpack and challenge the constructed negativity of societies determined to justify discrimination and criminalisation.
“Wretched Little Brat” is based on actual historical testimony, sets out the origins of what was known about gay Victorian life and how the sensationalised Wilde became the common understanding – the abnormal norm which impacted so negatively not only on the lives of those surrounding Wilde, but on perceptions and prejudices for generations to follow. Would Wilde and “Bosie” be imprisoned today – probably? Was theirs the epitome of ‘gay life’ or was it a salacious, mad episode of excess, exploitation and extremes with many victims and lasting consequences?

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