Pictures of Dorian Gray at Jermyn Street Theatre
Pictures of Dorian Gray is a delightfully faithful adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s brilliant novel. Practically all the dialogue is from the original, with various non-spoken sections from the book and prologue spoken by the actors while not representing their actual characters. Coupled with William Reynolds’s fittingly dark set and lighting design and Matt Eaton’s brooding sound design, the result is a poignant and appropriate interpretation which just about feels right – even if it is necessarily severely abridged at merely 90 minutes runtime.
One interesting aspect of the production is that the actors have rehearsed several roles, meaning that they will be performing as different characters during different performances. Richard Keightley and Augustina Seymour are both Lord Henry and Sibyl, and Helen Reuben and Stanton Wright are both Dorian and Basil. As such, the audience may experience the play differently depending on which show they happen to attend. But it doesn’t matter too much since all actors are clearly passionate about the work and portray their characters beautifully; Keightley, in particular, is an extremely convincing Lord Henry.
The production choices by Tom Littler are strong for the most part, with several extremely good ideas adding well to the plot. In particular, the instance when Lord Henry sends Dorian Huysmans’s À Rebours is delivered extremely well and clearly depicts his descent into corruption. Other moments are less successful and end up being more confusing than they should be; this is especially the case with the ending, in which the dialogue doesn’t quite highlight Dorian’s realisation of his hypocrisy well enough, which in turn doesn’t really allow the audience to realise what the character is thinking and why he decides to destroy the portrait in the end. Those familiar with the novel won’t be surprised, but for newcomers, it may be a bit of a mystery.
But occasional hiccups aside, this is still a strong, modern and successful adaptation of a wonderful novel and does a great job of convincing the onlookers of the power of the source material – both by merit of its faithfulness to the original, the beautiful production and the prowess of the actors. This play won’t age any time soon.
Photo: Anna Urik
Pictures of Dorian Gray is at Jermyn Street Theatre from 5th June until 6th July 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.