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The Picture of Dorian Gray
The New Wolsey Theatre
This is based on the Oscar Wilde’s book written in 1890 which has deep moralistic, philosophical, psychological, homosexual, and sociological layers for a mind-bending question of what happens when we remove consequences and conscience from our actions?
Dorian (Gavin Fowler) the young man who is the subject of the portrait, painted by Basil (Daniel Goode), becomes the obsessive painter’s muse as his work is forever improved after the portrait. Basil needs Dorian in his life otherwise he thinks he cannot paint at that level without him.
While sitting for the portrait, Doran meets Basil’s friend Lord Henry Wotton (Jonathan Wrather) who believes there is nothing worth having except youth and beauty and no such thing as morality, only pleasure. Susceptible young Dorian spends time with Lord Henry and begins to live a life with no morals and only seeking hedonistic pleasure. Dorian gives his soul to the portrait to remain forever young and live a life with no consequences. As the story unfolds… there are always consequences to one’s actions.
It’s a dark play, the theatre is plunged into darkness with ominous music before it begins to set you in the mood. The key characters are the three males and I wonder whether the gentlemen in the audience were more engaged with the male relationships than the women. It’s only a question as I feel I couldn’t relate at a deeper level with them. Their acting was wonderful, however.
The absolute element of the story Dorian giving his soul for youth, is not accentuated enough in the production, which leads to it being unclear the story takes place over 18 years. The audience were unaware of the real time span until it was said literally in the lines. Dorian used it to claim it was impossible for him to have committed a certain murder. A clumsy explanation in a stage full of talent and charisma. The degradation of the portrait was not impactful enough, which I could have coped with, if the other key factors were firmly in place.
The rest of the actors Sybil (Kate Dobson), Lady Victoria (Phoebe Pryce) and Catherine (Adele James) were equally lovely and talented.
The set & costume designs were a nod to the Victorian era but were modern day so it did not become a period piece. The action of the play was in one versatile space, there was no need for any set pieces moving about as furniture doubled up whether it was in the actors dressing room, or the painter’s studio. The décor was depicting the opulent features of the time but with the decay of beauty that runs through the theme of the play… the layers were everywhere.
It’s a book written purposely with a multitude of layers of morality, to portray those layers into a stage production is impossible in the time and space allowed. If you don’t know the story beforehand you are sure to have an enjoyable evening at the theatre as overall it was an incredibly watchable performance with superb acting. The Directors note is that they ‘leave room for the audience to explore their own darkest thoughts, fears and desires.’ The depth of those layers you take away with you is down to your own morality…..
The play runs at the New Wolsey until Saturday 6th April. For more information or the final tickets visit www.wolseytheatre.co.uk. Continues on tour.