Tuesday, June 18

The Picture of Dorian Gray – The Barn Theatre

Oscar Wilde’s intoxicating Faustian tale of beauty, love and mortality is given a fresh and modern day treatment in Henry Filloux-Bennett’s adroit script.

There have been many versions of Wilde’s dark morality tale and this particular digital adaptation using both video and film techniques alongside conventional theatre firmly places it in the world of social media and the power of the influencer where self- image and self- promotion rule the day.

Wilde’s basic question is how far would a person go to achieve success and maintain personal youth, beauty and fame? As Wilde quoted “behind every exquisite thing that existed there was something tragic” and in every sense of the word the play mirrors his exact assumption.

We are in dark unforgiving territory and Bennett’s clever script captures both Gray’s inner turmoil and obsessive self- love to good and sometimes quite startling effect.

Filmed on location and also in isolation at The Barn Theatre in Cirencester, this co-production between The Barn Theatre, The Lawrence Batley Theatre, The New Wolsey Theatre, Oxford Playhouse and Theatre Clwyd boasts an astonishing cast including Stephen Fry as the Interviewer, Joanna Lumley, on tremendous form as Lady Narborough, Russell Tovey as the manipulative Basil Hallward, Alfred Enoch both beguiling and sinister as Harry Wotton, Emma McDonald as the tragic Sibyl Vane and Fionn Whitehead as Dorian Gray.

Superbly directed by Tamara Harvey and with a limited amount of time and resources, she develops a keen sense of style and pace which allows the cast to explore each of their characters motives and objectives within Dorian Gray’s story.

There is quite literally not a wasted moment and the dazzling digital effects and great soundtrack really add something to the production.

The play cleverly links Gray’s deteriorating mental and physical health to his new found fame as a powerful social media influencer and it’s not until his mask eventually slips and his star status begins to fade that Gray begins to realise that his soul will be forever corrupt.

Whitehead delivers a well-judged and thoughtful performance as Gray, both charming and chilling in turn and Enoch as Harry shines in every scene he’s in.

Overall the quality of acting from the entire cast is absolutely top notch, however it would’ve been good to hear more from both Lumley and Fry and maybe  further focus on Gray’s tempestuous relationship with Basil but these are minor quibbles in an otherwise exciting and fresh approach to Wilde’s masterpiece.

You can see this production online only from 16th – 31st March 2021 at www.pictureofdoriangray.com

Reviewer: Kiefer Williams

Reviewed: 16th March 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★