'They are all voices of great distinction. I just rang up a bunch of people I really admire and said 'I've got this idea'. Boy, am I flattered that they all said, 'Yes'.' The poem is fascinating, but hardly ripe for dramatisation. How does he propose to go about it? 'We're not acting it out. At least, I don't think we are. We're all getting together for the first time on Sunday. I'm really looking forward to pouring cups of coffee and everyone introducing themselves. We'll take it from there. I think of it as taking the lines for a walk.'
For a long time, it was one of the most widely translated and circulated works in Europe. Yet in this country, like Dorian Gray, it's one of those works that everyone thinks they know, but hasn't read. 'The good bits are so good and the bad so bad. It's a mixture that's very close to my heart.'
Next year is the centenary of Wilde's imprisonment; next week is his birthday and Bartlett promises that the evening fits into Lyric policy: 'Good nights out on King Street.'
'The Ballad of Reading Gaol' is at the Lyric Hammersmith this Sunday at 6.30pm. All proceeds to Stonewall (081-741 2311)
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