Pictures of Dorian Gray - Jermyn Street Theatre - Augustina Seymour (Sibyl Vane), Stanton Wright (Dorian Gray) & Richard Keightley (Henry Wotton). Photo: S R Taylor Photography
Lucy Shaw’s multi-layered take on Oscar Wilde’s novel about vanity, art and beauty uses an ensemble cast of four with actors rotating roles, gender fluidly between performances. At the performance I saw, Dorian Gray was played by Helen Reuben although the official photos do show Stanton Wright in the role.
Gray, famously, has a portrait painted when he (she) is young and beautiful in an attempt to retain youthfulness. The painting ages while its subject does not until everything changes – which in this case involves an Ophelia-like dip in an onstage pond.
It’s an interpretation, directed by Tom Littler, which presents the piece as a verbal ballet with much echoing of words by any character not directly involved in the action which, I’m afraid, sometimes has the feel of an experimental drama class exercise. It’s not intended to be realistic and that sense of otherworldliness is underpinned by Matt Eaton’s faintly menacing sound design. William Reynold’s set consisting of two badly foxed mirrors angled over flat boxes, one of which contains water, and lots of star-like pendant lights adds to the surreal atmosphere too.
Reuben finds a sardonic attractiveness in Gray, punctuated with nicely managed brittle smiles and moments of anguish. Richard Keightley (Wotton in this performance) is suitably bossy and delivers lots of Wildean aphorisms with panache. As Sibyl Vane, the actress for whom Gray falls, Augustina Seymour is plausible and Stanton Wright gives us a convincing Basil Hallward, the portrait painter.
There are some interesting ideas in this production although overall I found it off-puttingly self-conscious and oddly unmoving.
Pictures of Dorian Gray - Jermyn Street Theatre - Augustina Seymour (Sibyl Vane), Helen Reuben (Basil Hallward), Stanton Wright (Dorian Gray) & Richard Keightley (Henry Wotton). Photo: S R Taylor Photography