Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of Sarah Snook in THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY?

The Succession actor plays all 26 characters in Kip Williams' adaptation

By: Feb. 16, 2024
Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of Sarah Snook in THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY?
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Kip Williams' adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray has now opened in London's West End, running until 11 May.

Emmy-Award winning actor Sarah Snook takes on all 26 roles in this gripping, witty and vibrantly contemporary production that breathes new life into Wilde’s classic tale.

This ground-breaking production delivers an explosive interplay of live performance and video in an astonishing collision of form. So what did the critics think?

Houman Barekat, New York Times: This “Picture of Dorian Gray” is, on its own terms, a triumph. And yet, a bit of doubt remains. The technical wizardry enhances the story — but does it also overshadow it? The eye is always drawn upward, to the screen, such that the physical presence of the actor feels almost incidental. One suspects that many audience members at such a production are never fully in the story. Instead of pondering the moral vicissitudes of life, we’re thinking about the screens, and the novelty of being in a hallowed auditorium dating back to 1821, looking at digital faces instead of flesh-and-blood people. It works, with Wilde’s material — but I hope it doesn’t catch on.

Aliya Al-Hassan, BroadwayWorld: As the show goes on, it is clear that Snook is taking us on a much wilder journey. Her timing is perfect; she has to perform in real time and react to pre-recorded footage, all the while jumping between the role of narrator and every character. There is a chameleon-like distinction in every single one, even when she has to switch with lightening speed between very contrasting roles. She has nothing to hide behind and it is a magnificent display of the most intricate stagecraft, devoid of any vanity.

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian: There are moments when a camera is pressed up against Snook’s face so closely we see every pore, and others when there are seven replicated versions of her. It goes from a clever, daring game, schlocky and over-acted (Snook variously writhes, dances and bursts into lip-synced song in what seems like an experimental cabaret) to something far more serious and accomplished.

Clive Davis, The Times: Does the script capture the book’s hypnotic combination of the real and supernatural? Not really. Williams, who talks about Wilde’s “queer subversion” in his programme note, is much more interested in wallowing in camp. And so the audience is invited to snigger at every turn. When we are introduced to Dorian, the beautiful young man who discovers that he is free to indulge in any vice, he is much closer to a simpering, winking Fotherington-Thomas. By the end, he resembles a bouffant cross between Geert Wilders and Elvis Presley in his final cheeseburger phase.

Fiona Mountford, iNews: Snook, whose vivacious face so full of mischief is captured by some very close close-ups, embodies them all with absolute and unflagging conviction; wigs and moustaches are added to her with maximum slickness as she moves about, with a tumble of cherubic blond curls for the initially effervescent Dorian and a chilling sneer for Lord Henry.

Sam Marlowe, The Stage: Snook’s phenomenal turn involves her portraying not just Dorian, but all the other characters too, often simultaneously – a split-second technical feat achieved with a kaleidoscopic use of live and recorded video, designed by David Bergman. The many, multi-sized screens on which people and settings are displayed slide in and out of the action; black-clad videographers track Snook around a stage on to which fragments of physical scenery – a strategic door, chaise longue, or decorative urn – are propelled. The effect is at once of a whole gallery of gilt-framed pictures, and of hectic scrolling and swiping through a social media timeline.

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out: Stunning, but it’s not exactly heavy on emotional depth, mind. Although the text is basically just Wilde’s story as read out by Snook, the arch, ironic reading offers little room for sympathy, horror or even seeing it as any sort of cautionary lesson. It‘s a turn! A big spectacular turn! It’s exhilarating but basically shallow. And why not? The creative team have shown us something remarkable, Wilde’s story is as legitimate and entertaining as it is a warning, and Snook is way beyond needing to prove to anyone that she can do Serious Acting. A cabaret tour de force, that feels like it’s simultaneously beamed in from Wilde’s England and a hundred years into our future.

The Picture of Dorian Gray runs at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until May 11

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner