Oscar Wilde's Grandson Disputes Authorship of West End's Constance

News   Oscar Wilde's Grandson Disputes Authorship of West End's Constance
 
London's King's Head Theatre, which will present the world premiere of Constance beginning Sept. 16, is billing the production as "Oscar Wilde's final play." Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland, claims that his late grandfather did not write the text, according to the New York Times.

Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde

“It is dishonest to foist this on the public,” Holland told British newspaper The Guardian. He called Constance “a pretty appalling piece of work” that is “peppered with a few aphorisms from other plays, marginally altered in order to sound a bit like Oscar Wilde.”

According to the theatre, after Wilde's release from prison in 1897, he immediately began writing Constance and sold what he claimed were "exclusive rights" to a number of theatrical agents, publishers, actors and managers, eventually handing over his handwritten manuscript to an American actress, Mrs. Cora Brown Potter. On her death in the 1930s the manuscript passed onto the French writer Guillot de Saix, who with a colleague Henri de Briel, put together a French translation. Charles Osborne has adapted the play for the current London production.

Holland claims that his grandfather sketched out the scenario of the play in a letter in 1894, but “never wrote a word” of it.

King's Head artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Maher responded to Holland's statement, telling The Guardian, “I’m completely comfortable calling it a play by Oscar Wilde,” and said that the production has credited the complete lineage of Constance.

In the play, "William Daventry, a rich industrialist and self-made man, is married to Constance, the perfect wife: loyal, faithful, and with excellent family credentials. At the Daventry's country house, various members of Constance’s extended family, a zealous man of the cloth and his flirtatious wife are assembled for an evening of entertainment – such as is affordable only by the middle classes, a fact deplored by the Duchess of Sandgate and her companion, Sir Richard. An incident between the Reverend’s wife and Daventry sets in motion a train of events that risk upsetting the moral code of this aristocratic family, driving them from Twickenham to London to the Tyrolean Alps." The play will be directed by Marc Urquhart and produced by Spreadbury-Maher and Dominic Haddock for Good Night Out Presents.

For tickets, call 020 7478 0160 or visit www.kingsheadtheatre.com.

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