Dorian Gray at Riverside Studios
Being the only novel published by acclaimed playwright Oscar Wilde, the allure of adapting The Picture of Dorian Gray for stage is obvious. And yes, it is possible to find someone that represents the radiant beauty of Dorian Gray – cue golden-locked, long-limbed and pointy nosed Jack Fox. But pitted against Wilde’s theatre repertoire, it lacks the wit, humour and pizazz that makes his plays such a joy.
The sharp and vivid characterisations that Wilde is so adept at are undoubtedly brought to life in this production. Joe Wredden leads the theatrics as the smooth talking, ever-wise and infallible Lord Henry, with a dark and menacing air hiding behind every remark. Antony Jardine’s prolific Shakespeare experience shines through his tragic and distressed Basil Hallward and, of course, there’s Fox’s Dorian Gray. Fox’s appearance seems made for the role, and his whimsy foolishness as the play begins marks the purity of soul that so captivates worshipping artist Basil, before he’s lost to the malice and passion that ends him.
Wilde’s elegant aesthetic and dandy demeanour is carried throughout the production, with costumes supplying the perfect decoration to the soft male relations and fine tastes of their characters. The space is relatively small considering the amount of ground that is covered in the play, but is intelligently adapted to portray elegant townhouses, shabby theatres and stinking opium dens alike.
Production company Ruby in the Dust has been as loyal to the classic novel as could be, portraying the tragic immorality of the fashionable through clever use of lighting and design.
But still there seems to be a lack of something, and you realise it’s because Wilde made this a novel, not a play. The carefully weaved genius is all wrapped up in that elegant prose and the triviality doesn’t quite translate. The more thrilling parts include the sweet and fancible Sybil Vane and her wild and adoring theatre director Mr Isaacs. Isaacs is Sybil’s benefactor, and also doubles up as narrator-at-large, creating the theatric superficiality that is the unique gem of this play.
Having risen to the challenge Dorian Gray is nothing short of a success, but it’s just not as thrilling as the book, nor as intelligent as Wilde.
Photo: Alastair Muir
Dorian Gray is at Riverside Studios until 10th May 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.