I admit to myself that Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray is one on a long list of books that I pretend to have read and in actuality once scanned the blurb of and otherwise haven’t been within fifty feet. Regaled as a dark book which explores the innermost desires of man and vanity, Act One’s take on it was an excellent adaptation in that regard.
Monica Thomas, director and adaptor, has brought a very visual and physical script into the light here. By this I mean we got to watch several massive dance numbers (choreographed by Lucy Spain), a particular favourite of mine being in the opening of the second act as we watched the descent of the cast into madness and opium and Dorian Gray (Jack Lupton) submitting by an exceptionally well timed piece, or in Sybil (Olivia Annan)’s enthralling dance in her acting as Juliet.
The lighting was incredible, with much of the first act using strobe lighting to show a disjointed passage of time, and the second act as we watch Dorian being plunged into darkness so was the show, lit mostly by characters holding torches.
Haydn Cadogan opened the production with his version of Basil, the painter who is so infatuated with Dorian at the beginning, with a monologue that nicely gripped the attention of the audience. Lord ‘Harry’ Henry (Alex Johns) was very well played, being the smooth-tongued tempter, and the only cast member I noticed all dressed in black whereas others all had touches of white to their clothing, an interesting take on the ideas of innocence. Especially this was shown at the end when Dorian ends the show dressed in black and nothing more.
The rest of the supporting cast, Jake O’Neill (Mr Isaaacs), Chris Brunskill (James Vane), Jessica Tait (Victoria / Adriana), Rosanna Hitchen (Mrs Vane / Opium Seller), and David Whelan (Alan) where fantastic providing a diverse range of characters with which to see the main characters’ personality as a contrast. Alan’s good will and kind heart, James Vane wanting to avenge his sister after 18 long years, and Victoria the maid with her blunt lack of emotion was excellent as a blank canvas.
The set was also an interesting take. With the key purpose of the play seeming to make light the inner darkness of man which can be exposed in us all, and as such the set was all mirrored walls, where you could often find yourself watching the backs of characters, or even looking into the eyes of the audience themselves.
I had a few gripes with the production. Every individual aspect was fantastic, but didn’t seem to fit together. The soundtrack constantly running felt jarring and in some cases drowned out the quieter more emotional bits, but other parts seemed to lift the production up. The dancing, which was amazing and especially the beginning of the second act dance I adored, however at times I couldn’t tell what I was watching; gritty insight into the inner darkness of man? Or the interpretive dance sequel. It seemed like a lot of the time the characters were hard lines being made to flow, but to be fair I know very little about dance and it certainly provided a spectacle.
Congratulations to all the cast and crew. The production was a huge success, and the four days of showing with that much movement must have burnt out the crew and cast. Bravo to all, and for those who were involved and will still be around, I cannot wait to see what next comes of your work.
– Charlie Knights