Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Moyan Brenn, Edinburgh Festival / CC
Photograph: Moyan Brenn / CC

Genre: Drama

Venue: C Venues – C

Low Down
“Oscar Wilde’s tale of passion and obsession retold by a vibrant young cast. A corrupt young man somehow keeps his youthful beauty eternally, but a special painting gradually reveals his inner ugliness to all. Classic gothic fiction with strong Faustian themes, this once controversial piece of writing examines themes of hedonism and morality in Victorian society. Still just as relevant today as when it was first conceived, this adaptation is sure to impress.”

Review
The Bablake Theatre Company’s production of The Picture of Dorian Gray may be a traditional telling of Oscar Wilde’s only novel, but it’s told with such unbridled enthusiasm that it’s easily one of the most honest and innovative adaptations this year.

The Faustian tale of the young man who sells his soul for perpetual youth and beauty finds a natural home in this spirited young troupe who do not shy away from the macabre and amoral musings of Wilde’s work.

The writers, while true to Wilde, have evidently suffered from the book containing such a large volume of quotable anecdotage that it’s a surgeon’s dilemma over which good leg to cut off.

The script is patchy because of its modesty in only including the intrinsic plot elements and foregoing the rich embellishments in the book – a disservice, perhaps, to the talent of the cast for they would surely have deployed the extra Wildean verbosity to great effect. Nevertheless, the writing distills the essence without removing the heart.

Unassuming writing does not equate to humble performances. Lord Henry is positively haughty, and his marvellously exaggerated and dandified portrayal is beautifully executed by Sachin Sharma. It is easy to see Wilde here in the man that talks a good talk but prefers the safety of spectating to participating in the consequences of his own maxims.

Instead, it is Dorian who is wooed to indulgence and excess by Henry’s witty adages. Rory Dulku is excellently cast, creating a believable journey from arrogant but naive youth to flagitious narcissist. His beguiling presence provides an unnerving pleasure in watching his malicious smile unravel the flapper niceties of London society.

Regrettably, both Bradley Gill and Lara Morley-White have comparatively little stage time as Basil Hallward and Sybil Vane. This is disappointing, for both give admirable performances balancing kindness with the aristocratic hubris of Lord Henry and later Dorian. With more time, they could have fully developed as the muses which, by their decency alone, showcase Dorian’s true vulgarity.

While the Fringe this year seems to have been all about how well shows can disguise the fact that they are, in fact, stage shows, Director Caroline Farmer has embraced the reality and directed honestly and confidently.

Lighting is bright and captive and gives the actors the difficult task of conveying the darkness and immorality under the literal spotlight. Supported by an appropriate use of music in Mozart’s Requiem, the result is effective and altogether makes the case that this is a show that prides itself on the quality of its performances.

Special praise should be given to the rotation of ensemble actors and scenery which is simply energised by Farmer overseeing and the cast executing balletic scene transitions which are fluid while never distracting or oddly placed.

In all of this, it’s nice to be reminded of what innovation and enthusiasm can accomplish by a dedicated team.

First published 18.08.13 @ FringeReview

Alastair Stewart 276 Articles

Alastair Stewart is a freelance writer, journalist, and teacher based in Edinburgh and Almería. He regularly writes about politics, history, and culture for magazines across Europe.


He was formerly a press officer at the Scottish Parliament. He graduated from Edinburgh University with an MA in International Relations.


Alastair founded DARROW in 2013 to support new and emerging writing talent in Scotland around the world.

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