Tag Archives: Augustina Seymour

Pictures of Dorian Gray – B
★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

Pictures of Dorian Gray - B

Pictures of Dorian Gray – B

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 11th June 2019

★★★

 

“The performances are uniformly excellent, but we do get confused by the excess of ideas that seem to be competing for attention”

 

It is tempting to see the pluralism alluded to in the title “Pictures of Dorian Gray” as a reflection of the multifaceted symbolism of the ‘portrait’ that forms the centrepiece of Oscar Wilde’s classic Gothic novel. Instead, though, it refers to the four different casting combinations. In the publicity blurb, you are invited to choose your picture. Sometimes the genders of the central characters are swapped. Director Tom Littler states in his programme notes that ‘it is fascinating to see the differences that emerge’, but also confesses that he ‘didn’t have a point to make’. Which is fair enough. “All art is quite useless” as Wilde famously proclaims in his preface to the novel. It is the prior claim I have issues with. Lucy Shaw’s adaptation is, indeed, fascinating; not because of, but despite the gender swapping.

In the performance I attended (“Picture B”), Stanton Wright played Dorian, led astray by the corrupting influence of Augustina Seymour’s Lady Henry Wotton. Helen Reuben portrays the artist, Basil Hallward, while Richard Keightley is Sybil Vane, the actor driven to suicide by Dorian’s cruelty. Keightley also presents the bulk of a fragmented narration that weaves in and out of the dialogue.

The performances are uniformly excellent, but we do get confused by the excess of ideas that seem to be competing for attention. Matt Eaton’s soundscape is beautifully atmospheric but does at times tell a different story from the one unfolding onstage. Similarly, the ongoing narration is often unconnected to the dialogue. What does stand out is the representation of the painting, and by extension, Dorian’s awareness of his crumbling soul. Lit from beneath, the portrait is a pool of water, shattering Dorian’s reflection with its ripples, and slipping through his fingers as he tries to grasp its meaning. When he hides the painting from the world, it becomes his own tomb.

It is a faithful telling of the story which retains much of the poetry, mirrored by William Reynold’s ethereal design – which lends a timeless quality. Yet at the same time the text firmly roots it in Victorian England; which jars with Dorian declaring he is intent on marrying a man. Ultimately the gender swapping is a distraction. The homoeroticism, masterfully suggested but heavily coded in Wilde’s novel, is paradoxically lost. Not because the real love triangle (that between Dorian, Basil and Henry) is seen as heterosexual in this translation; but because of the overt depiction of Dorian falling in love with a male actor. The mystery and magic are destroyed, just as a conjuror’s trick is diminished by knowing how it is done.

Nevertheless, this interpretation is, on the surface, captivating and beautiful to watch. Which is good enough for Oscar and honours his philosophies. Whether or not one is tempted to take a second look at it in another casting configuration is debatable. But definitely worth one viewing. Just don’t try to look too deep, for “all art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril”

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by  S R Taylor

 


Pictures of Dorian Gray – B

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.

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018
Stitchers | ★★★½ | June 2018
The Play About my Dad | ★★★★ | June 2018
Hymn to Love | ★★★ | July 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | November 2018
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Agnes Colander: An Attempt At Life | ★★★★ | February 2019
Mary’s Babies | ★★★ | March 2019
Creditors | ★★★★ | April 2019
Miss Julie | ★★★ | April 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Pictures of Dorian Gray – A
★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

Pictures of Dorian Gray - A

Pictures of Dorian Gray – A

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 10th June 2019

★★★

 

“The performances are all beautifully executed”

 

As director Tom Littler notes in the programme, Dorian Gray has become a kind of folklore: even if you haven’t read the novel you know the story, or at least some abridged version of it; a withering portrait hung in an attic. But it’s Wilde’s combination of wit and wisdom that has kept the story alive, seeing both the humour and tragedy of the premise. Unfortunately, Littler and writer Lucy Shaw have leaned instead on unsmiling introspection, leaving the light-heartedness out almost completely.

The content itself is still round about where Wilde left it – a beautiful young man wishes that his portrait would age rather than himself so that he might retain his youthful allure, and his wish comes true. The moral implications unfold – if you were to wear no signs of your transgressions, carry no cross for your regrets, and therefore lose sight of your humanity, would it all still be worth it, to be beautiful and to enjoy all things pleasurable?

The dialogue is also lifted directly from the page, so technically the humour is still present, but the sound design (Matt Eaton) has strange atmospheric soundscapes and heavy ominous echoes trounce any comic delivery – it’s hard to laugh when the audience feels they’re supposed to be taking it all very seriously.

It seems this is more of a dramatic exercise than an audience-ready production. The directive decisions are more out of curiousity – what if we did this – than to enrich the story. The big gimmick is that each night the actors will switch roles and thus the characters will switch genders- there are two men and two women. Quoting Littler directly from the programme notes, “We didn’t have a point to make – it was just a series of questions.” It’s the sort of thing you might try in rehearsal as an experiment but it seems bizarre to play it out on stage when there’s no reason.

As is fitting for a plot filled with hedonism, the production does look beautiful (William Reynolds). Two slanting mirrors flank the stage and tens of bauble filament bulbs hang low. The costume follows suits (Emily Stuart): there’s lots of black velvet and silk encrusted with gold and jewels, and whilst everyone has their own outfit, they all follow a similar theme, lending a very pleasing aesthetic cohesion.

The performances are all beautifully executed. Richard Keightley (playing Henry Wotton in the production I saw), is particularly adept, a perfect combination of predatory and charming. The trouble is that whilst everyone performed well and delivered their lines with conviction, it was mostly drowned out by the over-stylisation of the production – the strange ‘narrators’ interrupting the scenes to quote abstractly from Wilde’s well-known preface, for example, or the need to have the whole cast on stage throughout, beautifully choreographed (Julia Cave) to move with inexplicable purpose. What is the message we’re supposed to be receiving here? Unfortunately, I don’t think the cast knows any more than we do.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by  S R Taylor

 


Pictures of Dorian Gray – A

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.

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018
Stitchers | ★★★½ | June 2018
The Play About my Dad | ★★★★ | June 2018
Hymn to Love | ★★★ | July 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | November 2018
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Agnes Colander: An Attempt At Life | ★★★★ | February 2019
Mary’s Babies | ★★★ | March 2019
Creditors | ★★★★ | April 2019
Miss Julie | ★★★ | April 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com