It's another gem from Ruby in the Dust, says Penny Flood
When Oscar Wilde wrote A Picture of Dorian Gray, his homoerotic tale of a young man who sells his soul for a lifetime of youth and beauty, it was met with disgust and outrage by the reviewers.
It was in the 1890’s and many of them wanted Wilde prosecuted on moral grounds.
I’m happy to say that if they could see this version by Linnie Reedman, they would be no less offended because although Reedman has taken liberties with the script to add music, song, dance, masks, burlesque and Shakespeare to the mix, it doesn’t pull its punches and stays true to the spirit of the original.
Dorian Gray is the story of a young man who has a portrait in his attic that grows older and uglier while he stays young and beautiful. Eventually the face in the picture turns 50 while Dorian is always 20.
But this comes at an awful price, in return for eternal good looks Dorian has sold his soul and descends into a life of debauchery and corruption, which all ends up badly.
It’s produced by Ruby in the Dust, the team who brought their fabulous version of The Great Gatsby to the Riverside last year, and they don’t disappoint with this.
The costumes are lovely and the little stage is used to full effect with lots of atmosphere as the scene shifts from Victorian glamour in the first act to Soho opium dens in the second. All overseen by the looming ladder that leads to the mysterious attic and the dark, empty picture frame which adds a strange brooding presence.
Jack Fox (son of James, nephew of Edward and brother of Lawrence) who has inherited his family’s blond hair and good looks gives a convincing performance as Dorian. He’s on stage most of the time with a commanding presence that belies the fact that this is his stage debut.
And he’s not the only one. Another cast member making her stage debut is Daisy Bevan (Vanessa Redgrave’s granddaughter) as Sybil Vane, a struggling actress and object of Dorian’s obsession. Although Bevan’s inexperience shows she makes a very sweet and pretty Sybil.
Dorian is befriended, and seduced by the creepy, hedonistic Lord Henry (Joe Wreddon), oozing charm and menace from every pore, and the much nicer but slightly out of his depth, artist Basil Hallward (Anthony Jardine) who painted the portrait that caused all the trouble. He’s a dreamer who won’t accept, until it’s too late, that Dorian is changing from the sweet boy he first fell in love with into a more unpleasant creature.
For me the star of the show is Fenton Gray, fabulously attired in a sparkly red cape. He’s the impresario Mr Isaacs who also acts as a sort of Master of Ceremonies, moving the plot along sometimes with narrative, sometimes with song as he accompanies himself on the piano. He’s a wise old bird, sometimes funny, sometimes bitter because he know what’s what and he makes sure the audience knows too.
All in all it’s an imaginative, clever and very attractive production. Probably not one for Oscar Wilde purists who don’t appreciate any alterations to the master’s work but if you like to watch something a bit different, well crafted, and entertaining, it’s worth the trip to Crisp Road.
Dorian Gray continues at Riverside Studios until May 10. Contact the box office 020 8237 1111 or book online.
April 25, 2014