Tag Archives: Matt Eaton

Pictures of Dorian Gray – D
★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

Pictures of Dorian Gray - D

Pictures of Dorian Gray – D

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 12th June 2019

★★

 

“this Dorian-meets-Dracula interpretation has left the story drained of its lifeblood”

 

Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray – about the beautiful young man whose portrait grows old and marred over the years, while he remains a picture of innocent youth – is famous enough to be familiar even if you haven’t read it. The novel doesn’t lend itself well to the stage, and it’s an ambitious choice for an adaptation. Unfortunately, Tom Littler and Lucy Shaw’s one-note show doesn’t capture the complexity of Wilde’s writing.

Directed by Littler and adapted by Shaw, Pictures of Dorian Gray is titled in the plural to reflect its twist: the cast rotates through four different performances (‘Pictures’), gender swapping Dorian (Stanton Wright or Helen Reuben), Wotton (Richard Keightley or Augustina Seymour), Basil (Rueben or Wright), and Sibyl Vane (Seymour or Keightley).

The performances are strong all around – Reuben (Picture D) stands out for her portrayal of Dorian’s gradually souring innocence. However, the characters, and the intrigue around their gender-swapped dynamics, are drowned by Littler and Shaw’s heavily stylised presentation, which focuses solely on the darkness in Wilde’s story at the expense of all other elements. The aesthetic is gothic horror. The set is a sparse, black room with stark hanging lights and gothic mirrors (William Reynolds). The costumes are Victorian-influenced black robes (Emily Stuart). Disappointingly, this Dorian-meets-Dracula interpretation has left the story drained of its lifeblood. I found myself regularly reaching back to the novel for its colour and humour to contrast the hollow, unvarying bleakness of the production.

The characters who aren’t in scene slowly pace the edges of the stage, interspersing the dialogue with monotone prose from the novel, or blankly chanting scrambled, dissociated quotes. The constant repetition of echoing words – “Books. Mirror. Realism. Art. Art. Art.” – is grating and meaningless. The effect is a joyless, alienating tone. A few half-hearted chuckles from a handful of audience members survive the cleansing, but mostly the production dispenses with what is entertaining and engaging in favour of being confrontationally cold. Wilde would be the last person to take himself as seriously as this show wants to.

There’s plenty of darkness in Wilde’s works, but it’s insidious. In his plays, he slips his criticism into the comedy like razors. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, it takes a while to realise it’s a horror story. His writing lures you in with its warmth and humour, pretty dresses and lovely gardens. He’s still making light, witty jokes in the final chapters. Wilde is never straightforward. He’s very funny when he’s serious, and sincerity is his way of being playful. Littler and Shaw have missed this entirely.

In its attempt to stuff the story into a simplistic, one-note horror box, Pictures of Dorian Gray has stripped away the humour, the subtlety, the contradictions, all of Wilde’s colours, and left only black. It’s necessary to remember the original Dorian Gray is hugely enjoyable, even if Littler and Shaw want to argue it isn’t.

 

Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by  S R Taylor

 


Pictures of Dorian Gray – D

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 – C
★★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

Pictures of Dorian Gray - C

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.

 

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