The Picture of Dorian Gray

Mon 19th – Sat 24th August 2013

reviews

Lucy Wood

at 19:02 on 22nd Aug 2013

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‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’ is perhaps one of the greatest stories in the Western literary canon. It has seeped into all layers of the cultural psyche and the tale’s beauty and tragedy is endlessly affecting. As Wilde himself put it: “Behind every exquisite thing that ever existed, there was something tragic”.

This production, almost inevitably, was not going to live up to it. Some decent on-stage performances were severely hampered by a poorly edited script and some odd directional choices.

The whole novel was cruelly compressed into a fifty minute show – more a hurried sketch than an oil painting. Some of even the most beautiful and tender moments were dashed through in an endless drive to meet the finish-line. The fall out of the relationship between Dorian and Sybil Vane (Rory Dulku and Lara Morely-White), for example, was over in under thirty screaming seconds. Dorian’s decline, meanwhile, was over in moments. Basil Hallward (Bradley Gill), barely featured.

The only part which didn’t get the hatchet job, somewhat surprisingly, was that of Lord Henry Wotton. Whilst the part was very well played by Sachin Sharma, who managed to get a good handle on the man who led Dorian astray without falling into caricature, his performance was adversely affected by some odd decisions. For example, following the death of Sybil, Wotton stands on stage and with his hands directs his fellow cast members around the stage. I think it was meant to be symbolic of Wotton’s power over the events, but it does seem to over-emphasise his importance.

In the novel it is actually Basil who is the far more important of the two men in Dorian’s life, a gentle but unwavering reminder of his own evil and of the innocent boy he wanted to paint. But Basil is only on stage twice, and dies thirty seconds into his second appearance.

There were also a number of meandering scenes which really failed to add anything to the production but which where there in place of scenes which could have added something. That precious time showing Dorian shooting, or not shooting, or doing something equally un-newsworthy, could instead have made sense of Dorian’s decline and his guilt. As it was these two moments – by rights the most important in the story – were barely touched on.

As Wotton said: “Crime is to the common what art is to us – a way of experiencing new sensations”. And here we have both art and crime. Although it’s not necessarily a sensation I would like to re-experience.

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Mona Damian

at 20:10 on 22nd Aug 2013

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It would have been a surprising feat to successfully light the stage with Wilde’s dark work in just 50 minutes. Unfortunately the tragedy of this production of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ was not the emptiness of the infamous young man’s soul, but the lack of plot content: short and sweet is one thing, but Bablake Theatre has chosen to cut out far too much of Wilde’s sweet wit.

The production chooses to open without ever really acknowledging one of the most important relationships of the play. Bradley Gill’s Basil makes a shamefully late on-stage appearance and not enough time is invested in ever allowing the apparently intense bond between him and Dorian (Rory Dulku) to become convincing. This might save time but not the show. Sachin Sharma’s Lord Henry is charmingly engaging as he becomes the young Dorian’s devil’s advocate, but a devil at play without much of an angel will inevitably feel quite flat. The underwhelming feel of the play’s core trio reaches its peak, or rather pit, with the murder of Basil. This monumental scene, where the artist is awoken to the devastating reality of the nightmare that is his protégé’s soul, is as un-engaging as a centre-stage stabbing can be.

The young cast did manage to capture the most defining features of their roles. Henry had his full throttle bravado on show as he detailed the pleasures of the city, Sybil Vane (played by Lara Morley-White) was sufficiently naïve, and Dorian acted out his sinful life with a distasteful and arrogant sneer. However, they do not come close to the depth and complexity of Wilde’s originals. Particularly Dorian’s nature remains distinctly under-developed: what makes him such an arresting literary figure is the dramatic change of his nature. And yet what was meant to be the heart-wrenching corruption of an innocent Adonis becomes one casual stroll to the opera. Bablake Theatre’s production featured no fallen hero, tempted from his Eden, only a pretty boy who drew his claws.

It was a nice touch to have the entire cast always on stage and proved a particularly effective way of recreating bustling London street scenes. This provided the chance for several quite effective group tableaux. But still this is not enough to drive a play which has its success rooted in arresting characterisation and crucial plot development. A disappointing molehill of a momentous work.

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