"Wilde, Whispers and Scandalous Lies"
by Maureen Mckarkiel for remotegoat on 16/07/17

They say if you tell enough lies you will eventually believe them. Sir Edmund Backhouse, cad and charlatan, doesn’t appear to have suffered that self-deception. Based on a true story, this privileged Victorian gentleman, spun fantastic tales claiming a list of famous, improbable lovers, including Oscar Wilde and the Empress Dowager Cixi of China, and even ensnared the British government in a bogus arms deal.

Ian Lindsay and Jeremy Cantwell have written a play which seeks to explore Backhouse’s life and give some insight in to what might have driven such bizarre behaviour. Cantwell had access to the trickster’s papers stored in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which they used to flesh out the story.

The play takes a lighthearted approach and is overlaid with humour of the distinctly British upper class kind. It also touches on the British Empire and the nature of the relationships fostered with the rest of the world as a result. A jolly god jape but in the end Backhouse’s motives remain obscure.

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