REVIEW: DORIAN GRAY, New Wimbledon Theatre, October 6 2009

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Matthew Bourne's interpretation of Wilde's gothic masterpiece, The Picture of Dorian Gray, arrives in sleepy autumnal Wimbledon to pose questions about fame, about looks and about our celebrity saturated culture. The fabulously toned troupe answer some of those posers (and this is a production that is not short of posers) and leaves others rather more open than Oscar does in his coruscating text. 

Health warning - to be fully appreciated, it is highly recommended to read the novel before taking one's seat or, if that's too demanding, watch a film adaptation: the dancers are wonderfully expressive, but, inevitably, concentrate on the emotional resonances of the story, compressing the action into set piece scenes. Bourne has taken plenty of liberties with the source material (though I'm sure the author wouldn't mind about gender changes amongst the principals) but the central trajectory of Dorian's descent into a hedonistic hell is retained as Terry Davies' wonderfully varied music fuses with the dance to carry DorIan Down and down. 

With Basil Hallward converted from a painter to a photographer, offering the opportunity to draw on inspiration from movies such as Blow Up and The Eyes of Laura Mars, and Dorian remodelled as a male Lindsay Lohan, a ubiquitous presence in popular culture, beautiful, pansexual, seductive, but eaten up from the inside out, as he destroys those around him, unrestrained by his withered super-ego.  

Richard Winsor, looking rather like Justin Timberlake, portrays Dorian's hellish ordeal with great energy, horrified as his doppelganger (standing in for the novel's portrait) Jared Hageman confronts him, ensuring that he pays the price of his murderous past. Michaela Meazza plays ice queen Lady H with appropriate hauteur, and Jason Piper's wonderfully charismatic performance as Basil Hallward provides the perfect counterpoint to the selfish egomaniacs that surround him. 

This production provides a thought-provoking, aesthetically pleasing revisit to a story and mythology familiar to its audience. It aims to provide a searing critique of a culture that can elevate Katie PrIce To one of the most well-known women in the country, but ultimately, its form subverts its message. In the same way that Michael Lewis' book, Liar's Poker, sought to expose the appalling excesses of late Eighties Wall Street, but was gobbled up by its readership as a manual to obtain all that Lewis abhorred, I suspect many in the audience will look upon Dorian's orgies, wealth and hero-worship and think, "Well, I'd like a piece of that." The sheer beauty of the men and women in the cast make a great case for "Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse." Nevertheless, the audience reaction at the curtain call was hugely enthusiastic - and this reviewer was no exception, after a night rich in pleasure for the mind and the eye.

You can see Dorian Gray on tour at the following venues:

The New Wimbledon Theatre: 6 - 10 October

The Lowry, Salford: 21 - 24 October  

Wales Millennium Centre: 27 - 31 October 

The Swan, High Wycombe: 3 - 7 November 

Birmingham Hippodrome: 10 - 14 November

The New Victoria Theatre, Woking: 17 - 21 November. 


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From This Author Gary Naylor