Tag Archives: David Woodward

Dorian

Dorian

★★★★

Reading Rep Theatre

Dorian

Dorian

Reading Rep Theatre

Reviewed – 19th October 2021

 

“a thoroughly modern and uncompromisingly Queer story”

 

In an age of toppling statues, do we need heroes any more? Reading Rep has just begun its first ever season in a new home with a play which is partly about Oscar Wilde. This multi-facetted new adaptation of Wilde’s only novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is an appropriate choice for a Reading-based community-focused professional producing theatre which has as its mission the transformation of lives through theatre.

The Rep’s new home is an impressive £1m conversion of a former Salvation Army hall on the east side of the town.

Phoebe Eclair-Powell and Owen Horsley’s smart and engaging play interweaves the story of a beautiful man who makes a Faustian pact with his own portrait with that of Wilde himself, who was imprisoned in Reading gaol after being found guilty of gross indecency with another man. For many of us, Wilde remains an inspiring and heroic figure, not only for his literary talent but also for the great injustice of his conviction. An official pardon was issued in 2017, the 50th anniversary of the abolition of the crime for which he was convicted.

Eclair-Powell and Director Horsley have made ‘Dorian’ a thoroughly modern and uncompromisingly Queer story. It is peppered with references to the hit TV series ‘Pose’, EastEnders and even Blackadder. Some 16 roles are shared by a lively and appealing cast of just three young actors.

In this fast-moving show we see Dorian in a Victorian artist’s studio as well as in the gay nightclub Heaven. We are also reminded of the death of George Michael. It features an excellent picture frame themed set by E.M. Perry and some effective lighting by Simeon Miller. There are also some gorgeous costumes supervised by Fran Levin.

Successfully casting a ‘wonderfully handsome’ character of ‘passionate purity’ is no mean feat. Andro Cowperthwaite is a most impressive choice for the role. His characterisation is committed and compelling, his delivery excellent and his physical presence entirely suited to the role.

Ché Francis tackles the difficult role of both Wilde himself and that of Henry Wotton, who convinces young Dorian of the extraordinary value and fragility of his own beauty. In this fairly breathless piece, their delivery sometimes lacked clarity.

Francis was partnered by RADA graduate Nat Kennedy who plays both the painter Basil Hallward and Wilde’s lover Robbie Ross as well as a number of other characters. These were vivid and often appealing performances which made much of the comic material in the play, partly at the expense of genuinely engaging this reviewer’s sympathy for Wilde’s predicament.

According to one psychologist, to be a hero, one has to be deviant. See the play yourself to decide if Dorian’s Wilde is a hero or not. Whatever you conclude, you will be guaranteed a rich and engaging evening from an enterprising company which deserves every future success in its impressive new home.

 

 

Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Holly Revell

 

Dorian

Reading Rep Theatre until 7th November

 

Other shows reviewed this month:
Dumbledore Is So Gay | ★★½ | Online | October 2021
Back To The Future | ★★★★ | Adelphi Theatre | October 2021
Roots | ★★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | October 2021
The Witchfinder’s Sister | ★★★ | Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch | October 2021
Rice | ★★★★ | Orange Tree Theatre | October 2021
The Cherry Orchard | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | October 2021
Love And Other Acts Of Violence | ★★★★ | Donmar Warehouse | October 2021
Yellowfin | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | October 2021
Brief Encounter | ★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | October 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

★★★★★

Wilde Theatre

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell

Reviewed – 3rd November 2020

★★★★★

 

“Kelsey Short’s Jane is a captivating and empowered northern lass with bags of inspiring grit”

 

How to compress a blockbuster three volume novel from 1847 into an engaging theatrical experience for audiences today? That’s the challenge that writer-director Nick Lane has risen to splendidly in this thrilling adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’.

It’s the work of South Hill Park’s resident company Black Eyed Theatre which has a deserved reputation for exciting and innovative theatre with minimal grant assistance.

Poor plain Jane. She’s the put-upon girl ‘whose capacity for love is seemingly limitless’ that’s at the giddying centre of this first person narrative. Her struggle for self-determination through the years from schoolgirl right through to motherhood is Brontë’s inspiring subject.

The cast are multi-instrumentalists and singers and take up to five roles each. The action takes place on a stark and impressively contemporary set by Victoria Spearing which is particularly well lit by Alan Valentine.

Kelsey Short’s Jane is a captivating and empowered northern lass with bags of inspiring grit. The splendid Ben Warwick is Mr Rochester, the mysterious owner of Thornfield Hall. In his high-waisted britches (costumes by Naomi Gibbs) he has a lean and hungry look and gives an energetic and winning performance.

This is the kind of rigorously honest production where all the cast are on stage almost all the time, even as they make their costume changes. Their tight ensemble work is the motor that keeps the energy up and drives the action forward. Camilla Simeon, Eleanor Toms and Oliver Hamilton are all compelling performers, deftly switching from role to role, and even instrument to instrument, mid-tune.

The story is something of a melodrama, albeit with plenty of humorous moments, so it’s appropriately broken up with plenty of folksy tunes and atmospheric musical mood-setting by composer George Jennings.

 

 

Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Alex Harvey-Brown

 


Jane Eyre

Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell until 4th November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde | ★★★★★ | September 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews