Tag Archives: William Reynolds

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

 

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