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posted/updated: 09 Mar 2019 -
The Picture of Dorian Gray
By Oscar Wilde. Co-prodeced by Tilted Wig Productions, The Churchill Theatre Bromley and Malvern Theatres.
society/company: Churchill Theatre Bromley (professional) (directory)
performance date: 07 Mar 2019
venue: Churchill Theatre Bromley
reviewer/s: Paul Johnson (Sardines review)

Photo: Craig Sugden


Kicking off a brand-new national tour this week at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre is Séan Aydon’s atmospheric stage adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Co-produced by Tilted Wig Productions, The Churchill and Malvern Theatres, this stylish non-time-specific supernatural thriller questions what would happen if there were no consequences to blurring the divide between morality and immorality.

A young and handsome Dorian Gray (Gavin Fowler) sits for renowned artist, Basil Hallward (Daniel Goode), who is inspired – not to say infatuated – to produce his ‘best ever work’, according to his close friend Lord Henry Wotton (Jonathan Wrather). However, when Dorian sees his own image he flies into a fit of depressive rage at the thought of the painting staying forever young while he would inevitably grow old and wrinkled in stark contrast. “If only it could be the other way around,” dreams the young muse. Well, be careful what you wish for…

For the next eighteen years, Dorian remains young and beautiful as he launches on a life of hedonistic debauchery, as first suggested by Lord Henry Wotton who immediately took the boy under his immoral wing when he met him in Hallward’s studio. But when Gray’s deepening lifestyle includes callously driving his fiancée to suicide, and even murder, while remaining forever young in appearance… surely all is not what it seems.

The picture, which Gray keeps covered and hidden away for reasons which become obvious, reflects his true soul and continuously grows grotesquely ugly and old over the years. Eventually its subject cannot stand it anymore especially when he thinks he has taken a moral U-turn after deciding NOT to murder a girl he meets. When the picture remains unchanged Gray decides to destroy it – but it’s probably never a good idea to destroy one’s soul!

It’s a bit of a shame that Sarah Beaton’s impressive decaying Victorian box set features square sides in favour of more open angles. The Churchill’s wide auditorium means that anybody seated to either side automatically has a restricted view. This won’t present a problem for smaller venues but when your production launches on such a large stage – to the extent where the theatre’s staff are even ushering audience members to the centre of the auditorium – then you’re left with a talking-point you could probably do without.

Views aside, this production oozes style and I’m pleased that the extensive programme includes notes on the costume design, which features both Victorian and more modern clothing. The use of clear plastic sheeting in act two, therefore, can also claim licence from originating outside of the 19th Century.

Aydon has skilfully adapted Wilde’s novel, which is no easy feat, and the seven-strong cast (four of whom take on multiple roles) produce a slick show… with Fowler in the titular role proving a suitably nasty piece of work.

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Photo: Craig Sugden

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