Pictures of Dorian Gray – C
Jermyn Street Theatre
Reviewed – 11th June 2019
“a beautiful production of what will always be a fantastic story”
Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is a classic masterpiece – one of my favourite stories – and this new adaptation by Lucy Shaw certainly does it justice. It is a brilliant narrative about youth and ageing, about the visual degradation caused by sin. When Dorian Gray has her portrait painted by her friend Basil Hallward, she wishes that it would reflect the passing of the years and leave her own skin unchanged. Little does she know this wish is granted and, hidden in her attic, the portrait becomes an ugly reminder of her age and sin.
The four actors rotate night by night between the parts – an opportunity for audiences to see the same story told with entirely different interpretations and dynamics between the characters. I saw Picture C. The cast are strong all round. Augustina Seymour is charming and tragically hopeful as Sibyl Vane, Stanton Wright too as Basil Hallward, has an openness and honesty that pushes the twisted relationship between Henry Wotton (Richard Keightley) and Dorian Gray (Helen Reuben) harshly into the limelight. This relationship is brilliantly created by Keightley and Reuben. She falls so immediately under his spell, becoming a changed product of his callous and unkind wit. Reuben makes a wonderful Dorian Gray – delightful and natural, witty and cruel and falling apart. When the characters are not in the scene, they play echoing narrative voices that interject from the edge of the action, mostly with lines taken from Oscar Wilde’s preface. Whilst this works well to set the scene and move the narrative on at particular times, these interruptions feel predominantly unnecessary and detract from the brilliant scene work happening centre-stage.
The whole production is beautifully designed. The set, by William Reynolds, is made up of two mirrors sloping from the ceiling, dusty and faded so that only half-reflections can be made out. One of these mirrors covers a pool of water which represents the painting, blue then red light running through it as changes. The shape of paint brushes can be made out on the wall and light bulbs hang like stars from the ceiling. Emily Stuart is responsible for the costume design which is striking yet cohesive. The actors dress in black – velvet or silk often – highlighted with golden embellishments. There is a wonderful luxury to the aesthetic.
This is a beautiful production of what will always be a fantastic story. Whilst the constant narration overcomplicates and interrupts, the piece is redeemed by the quality of its performers, as well as impactful design choices.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by S R Taylor
Pictures of Dorian Gray – C
Jermyn Street Theatre until 6th July
The cast switch roles at different performances, giving you a choice of four versions: A – Male Dorian with male Wotton, B – Male Dorian with female Wotton, C – Female Dorian with male Wotton and D – Female Dorian with female Wotton. See Jermyn Street Theatre website for dates each version is performed.
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