The Picture of Dorian Gray

Tue 11th – Sat 15th October 2011

reviews

Celia Oldham

at 11:02 on 12th Oct 2011

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1disagrees

Adapting 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' from a novel into a play was a bold move on the part of John Osborne - a move which did not necessarily pay off. Wilde's witty dialogue appears to have been lifted almost word-for-word and, while his style works on paper, I grew weary of his witticisms after about five minutes. The aphorisms, however, would continue for another two-and-a-half hours. This meant that the success of the play depended largely on the acting ability of the cast. Sam Curry's Dorian initially failed to captivate, although his performance certainly improved as his character's moral flaws came to the fore. To begin with, however, he seemed to conflate Dorian's childlike charm with mere childishness, which consistently undermined his character's sinister side. James Evans bore the brunt of Wilde's epigram obsession, which he managed well at times, although his performance was liable to become artificial. And for a man who spent the majority of the play cigarette-in-hand, he didn't smoke much. The less central roles stole the show. Jack Mosedale played Basil Hallward, a character who pales into relative insignificance beside the charisma of Gray and Wotton in the novel. However, Mosedale's performance stood out as sensitive, particularly his portrayal of the obscure pain engendered by the loss of a friend and a love. Similarly, Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey successfully conveyed Sybil Vane's youth and charm with a stage-presence that was both powerful but which achieved the necessary vulnerability. The principal characters were often well-directed as an ensemble, but some of the effects were surprisingly gimmicky. Demons in modern dress sat quietly on some scaffolding at the back unless the director wanted the audience to know that something sinister was afoot, at which point the lights dimmed and the demons began to hiss. Symbolic hanging mirrors were similarly unnecessary, particularly given their habit of reflecting the stage lights straight into the audience's eyes. Most perplexing was the dance number, which was incongruous with the rest of the production, although Nicholson-Lailey had some impressive moves. This production saw some well-coordinated performances, but unnecessary effects complicated an already ambitious play.

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Julia Mason

at 12:32 on 12th Oct 2011

1agrees

1disagrees

The story of Dorian Gray is a dark tale following a man who descends into a life of selfishness and tragedy. His obsession with looking young begins with the idea that a portrait of him might grow old in his place. This play effectively shows the artist, Basil's, then Dorian's obsession with the painting and a number of tragedies that surround Dorian, although the play didn't successfully convey this descent to ruin. The change from the impressionable, very 'human' Dorian into the stubborn, soulless man was very sudden. This journey was merely touched upon, such as when Dorian exclaimed that he felt different. It was also a shame that the darkness of the story did not come across in Dorian's character. However, this twisting in the storyline was demonstrated through the presence of spirits at the back of the stage, following Dorian around and through entering the main stage halfway through to take away Sybil. The lights were used effectively throughout the performance, particularly when a bright spotlight shone on Dorian to show both James, Sybil's brother, and the audience that he had not aged. The music seemed rather sudden, like the change we witnessed with Dorian, particularly at the end of the performance. Whilst the music itself helped to set the tone, better use of fading in and out the music would have prevented it feeling quite so abrupt. All actors gave impressive performances. Their interactions appeared very natural and the way they performed their lines kept the flow of the play steady. Pauses in speech were used effectively and they made their characters individuals. In particular, the actor performing the role of Harry caught his character incredibly. From his movements around stage to the tone used when speaking, he gave Harry the persuasive and darkly humorous nature he needed. The audience certainly responded well to quips made by Harry. The use of the space on stage was also impressive. Movement was used only when necessary and when it was used it successfully allowed the audience to get a feel of what the character was experiencing. The director ensured that even though a character was not involved in the main dialogue, their role was still important within the scene. For example, although it was Dorian and Harry talking on the chairs at the start of the play, Basil was still involved in the scene, painting at the side of the stage. The actor performing the role of Basil did a good job at always maintaining his character's obsession with the painting. The only disappointment in stage direction was the positioning of the frame in the first scene. It was rather prominent on the stage to the left so as an audience member on that side, the expression of Dorian when he first looked upon his painting was missed due to him being blocked by the painting. Overall, this was a play that was acted well and visualised effectively on stage with the space it had. The lack of darkness of Dorian's character was disappointing, but aside from this, I found the play rather enjoyable.

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