‘Dear Bosie, After long and fruitless waiting, I have determined to write to you myself, as much for your sake as for mine, as I would not like to think that I had passed through two long years of imprisonment without ever having received a single line from you, or any news or message even, except such as gave me pain.’

Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

Between November 1895 and May 1897 Oscar Wilde was incarcerated in Reading Gaol, spending 23 hours a day confined to a cell so small he could touch both sides at the same time. It was not until 1897 that he was given pen and paper, and what he wrote was De Profundis, ‘one of the greatest love letters ever written’ (Colm Tóibín).

Addressed to his lover ‘Bosie’ (Lord Alfred Douglas), and written over the course of two months, De Profundis is an extraordinary testament to strength in adversity. Stephen Rea (who performed Seamus Heaney’s Aeneid: Book VI to great acclaim at the Festival last year) returns to the Watergate to premiere a specially abridged version of Wilde’s epic letter. Featuring a live score composed by Neil Martin and performed by the Irish Chamber Orchestra, this performance of Wilde’s most personal text by one of Ireland’s finest actors promises to be an intensely dramatic and moving experience.  

Photo credit: Joby Waldman