New Wolsey offers a dazzling new picture of an updated Dorian Gray
- Credit: Barn Theatre
The Picture of Dorian Gray, adapted by Henry Filloux-Bennett from the novel by Oscar Wilde, Barn Theatre with support from New Wolsey Theatre, Theatr Clwyd, Lawrence Batley Theatre and Oxford Playhouse. Running online until March 31
It seems a match made in heaven – or possibly the perfect deal done with the devil – to turn Oscar Wilde’s timeless tale The Picture of Dorian Gray into a 21st century allegory for the dangers to be found in the bewildering world of social media.
In the original story, the effects of Dorian Gray’s debauched life were transferred onto a portrait stowed away in Dorian’s attic. In this timely all-star update, Dorian’s beauty and online charm has been harnessed by a selfie contained within a very special app.
Last year, this collaboration of leading regional theatres scored a massive hit with their digital production of the thriller What A Carve Up – now they are back with an even more ambitious and possibly even better thought through updating of this Oscar Wilde classic.
Writer Henry Filloux-Bennett and director Tamara Harvey make a wonderful team – keeping the spirit of the original story without ever feeling the need to slavishly copy it scene by scene. The presentation is fast and fluid, with lots of visual flourishes which place the audience in the middle of this technology-driven narrative.
The film is told in flashback as interviewer Stephen Fry conducts a Covid-secure TV interview with Dorian’s friends after some dreadful mishap. Joanna Lumley is the elegant, self-assured toff Lady Caroline Narborough who tells the story of a fateful 21st birthday party while Alfred Enoch is Dorian’s louche friend Harry Wotton questions Lady Narborough’s recollection of certain key moments.
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The key one is Dorian falling for Shakespeare-loving singer Sibyl Vane, beautifully brought to life by Emma McDonald – who is given a wonderful showcase for her fantastic voice.
The action is firmly anchored in the world of 2020 with witty Wildean references to lockdown, ‘staying safe’ and odd conditions relating to travel as well as track and trace.
Fionn Whitehead is suitably charming and alluring as Dorian, the university undergrad, who ensnares a nation of followers on his YouTube channel.
This update is hugely entertaining, wonderfully realized for a digital presentation that has the intimacy of theatre but with the flash visuals of a high-end TV drama. Tickets are available through the New Wolsey website.
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