Tag Archives: Fionn Whitehead

The Picture of Dorian Gray


Online via www.pictureofdoriangray.com

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Online via www.pictureofdoriangray.com

Reviewed – 12th March 2021



“Set in a time of lockdown it is uncomfortably portentous, and it triggers the frightening thought that society might be stuck there”


When Oscar Wilde unleashed “The Picture of Dorian Gray” onto the world back in 1890, the Irish Times said it was ‘published to some scandal’ and the Daily Chronicle stated that it would ‘taint every young mind that comes in contact with it’. It is debatable whether Wilde courted such a reception, and it is difficult to imagine a similarly outraged reaction were it to be unveiled in today’s climate; but I’m sure he would have been proud of this modernised re-telling of the story. Not so much for the narrative itself but for the way it emulates the original’s intention to challenge the social mores of society. This production couldn’t be more up to date if it tried, as it cleverly tackles the pressures brought on by the growing obsession with our image. Our online image. The dusty attic with its decaying framed portrait has been replaced with the perfect pixels of selfies, and the Faustian pact for the flawless filter.

Written by Henry Filloux-Bennett and directed by Tamara Harvey it is a co-production between the Barn Theatre, Lawrence Batley Theatre, The New Wolsey Theatre, Oxford Playhouse and Theatr Clwyd: the team that brought us the equally ground-breaking “What A Carve Up!” last October. It treads a similar path, too, by wandering into the realms of docudrama – but with its finger right on the pulse. The story starts at a fund-raising event to support theatres during the pandemic; organised by Lady Narborough, brilliantly portrayed by Joanna Lumley. It is also Dorian’s twenty-first birthday party: the date is July 4th, 2020, the day when the first lockdown ended. Amongst the guests were four friends and we are tantalisingly informed that “within eight months, three of the four friends were dead”.

Lumley is being interviewed, via zoom, by Stephen Fry who is piecing together the series of events in retrospect. Lumley defensively primes Fry with the proviso that “if people are going to see this, I don’t want any come back”; an echo of Wilde’s contemporaries who began to disassociate themselves from him to avoid the fallout from the novel. What follows are echoes of the novel itself, resounding quite clearly and harmoniously within a wider polemic against the dark side of social media.

Fionn Whitehead is Dorian Gray, who makes a deal for his social star never to fade. For his perfect self that he broadcasts to the world to always remain. We all know the true, horrific cost of this will be unavoidably met, but it is the build-up to this that is as fascinating and exciting as the climax. Viewers who know nothing about the original story will be intrigued. Wilde aficionados will relish the anachronisms and twists. Most of the epigrams are there but they are given new and heightened meaning in Filloux-Bennett’s ingenious script. We also see the characters in a fresh light, and it is here that quite a few liberties are taken. As a result, though, the depth of some of the characters becomes a touch diluted. Many of Lord Henry (Harry) Wotton’s lines are given to Basil Hallward, the creator of the portrait, and vice versa. Whilst this serves to demonise Russell Tovey’s Basil to great effect, it relegates Harry Wotton’s role to more of a hanger-on than being instrumental in Dorian’s corruption. Alfred Enoch, however, gives a thoroughly nuanced performance that swings from devil-may-care bravado to owner of a bruised heart in a brush stroke.

The standout is Emma McDonald’s Sibyl Vane. Not so much a victim of Dorian’s murderous rejection, she instead suffers at the hands of internet trolls. McDonald has the star quality to allow us to believe fully in Sibyl’s star struck, vulnerability. We share her shock at the discovery of the potentially fatal power of social media networks; an unregulated battlefield of harassment and bullying. It is powerful viewing.

This production plants a classic Victorian tale into a modern world of fake news, conspiracy theories and obsession with how others see us. Set in a time of lockdown it is uncomfortably portentous, and it triggers the frightening thought that society might be stuck there. Dorian’s descent into corruption and unravelling mental health remains unwitnessed by the outside world. On screen, through the filter he has sold his soul for, he remains beautiful. But desperately alone.

Whilst never feeling like one, this is a state of the nation, public service broadcast, dressed up as a thought-provoking piece of digital theatre. If Wilde were around today it is exactly the sort of thing he would be exploring.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Online via www.pictureofdoriangray.com until 31st March


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Queers thespyinthestalls The Old VicQueers thespyinthestalls The Old Vic

The Old Vic today announces casting for Queers, a series of eight monologues curated by Mark Gatiss. Staged on 28 and 31 July at The Old Vic, they mark 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 began the decriminalisation process for homosexuality between men. Queers celebrates some of the most poignant, funny, tragic and riotous moments of British gay male history over the last century.

Mark Bonnar, Sara Crowe, Jack Derges, Ian Gelder, Kadiff Kirwan, Russell Tovey, Gemma Whelan and Fionn Whitehead will perform monologues written by Matthew Baldwin, Jon Bradfield, Jackie Clune, Michael Dennis, Brian Fillis, Mark Gatiss, Keith Jarrett and Gareth McLean. The monologues will be directed by Mark Gatiss and
by Old Vic Associate Director Max Webster and Baylis Director Joe Murphy.

Queers is produced in partnership with BBC Studios, Pacific Quay Productions. The monologues were filmed earlier in the year, directed by Mark Gatiss and featuring many of the cast who will be appearing on stage at The Old Vic. These films will be screened on BBC Four this summer.

Queers is part of The Old Vic’s One Voice series, funded by the TS Eliot Estate, which celebrates the rawest of theatre forms – a single voice on a stage without scenery and with nothing to rely on but words. 


The full line up is as follows:

Fri 28 Jul

The Man on the Platform by Mark Gatiss, performed by Jack Derges
The Perfect Gentleman by Jackie Clune, performed by Gemma Whelan
I Miss the War by Matthew Baldwin, performed by Ian Gelder
Something Borrowed by Gareth McLean, performed by Mark Bonnar

Mon 31 Jul

Missing Alice by Jon Bradfield, performed by Sara Crowe
Safest Spot in Town by Keith Jarrett, performed by Kadiff Kirwan
A Grand Day Out by Michael Dennis, performed by Fionn Whitehead
More Anger by Brian Fillis, performed by Russell Tovey


The Old Vic thespyinthestalls


Box Office 0844 871 7628 | oldvictheatre.com