European Arts Centre have brought to life, or at least brought to the stage, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. With the team behind last year’s The Trials of Oscar Wilde at the creative helm, and Wilde’s own grandson Merlin Holland co-writing the adaptation, The Picture of Dorian Gray at Trafalgar Studios is an homage to Wilde's only novel.
With references to the novel’s preface and with some of the omitted homoerotic passages reintroduced, the adaptation aims to capture not only the haunting and iconic demise of Dorian Gray but also the history of what was an extremely controversial, even ‘poisonous’ book. Full of Wildean wit and direct quotes from the novel, the script frames the Faustian tale through a series of small episodic scenes. John Gorick, Rupert Mason, Helen Keeley play a cast of countless characters while Guy Warren-Thomas as Dorian Gray stays the same; the effect portrays the changing world around the ever ageless character.
This choice however occasionally stymies the flow of the action, and without adequate time on stage some characters remain caricatures. Keeley’s Lady Henry is a delightful and very funny exception. Lord Henry Wotton (Mason), Dorian’s seducer to all thing sensorial, cleverly resembles Wilde and reminds us that he is always in the wings influencing the action of both Dorian and the narrative. Wilde said that the three main characters were versions of himself: ‘Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry is what the world thinks me: Dorian is what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.’
Dorian is referred to as a ‘visible symbol’ of a ‘new Hedonism’, a symbol that is unfortunately not realised onstage. While the production has some visual stimulation, including an opium den sequence and an asymmetrical coffin-shaped picture frame, it misses an opportunity to paint the evocative and gothic images so strongly associated with the story.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a faithful and comprehensive adaptation of Wilde’s philosophical and cautionary tale. Perhaps, however, the production could be less faithful to the text and instead explore its own existence as a work of art in its own right. It is, after all, the thing which makes the picture of Dorian Gray so vivid, so eerie, so undeniably real; ‘It has a life of its own’.
|What||The Picture of Dorian Gray, Trafalgar Studios|
|Where||Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DY | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
21 Jan 16 – 13 Feb 16, Monday - Saturday 7.45pm, Thursday and Saturday matinees 3pm
|Price||£15 - £25|
|Website||Click here to book tickets via The Ambassador Theatre Group's website|