Daniel Goode as Basil, Jonathan Wrather as Henry and Gavin Fowler as Dorian

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Malvern Theatres


Oscar Wilde's sinister story about a man that succumbs to hedonism when gifted with never growing old is a renowned classic worldwide.

So, I can understand why there was an attempt to try something different in this new production by Malvern Theatres, Tilted Wig Productions and Bromley's Churchill Theatre which is currently on tour.

Although it's difficult to judge what this version would be like in full swing as due to illness, one of the actresses was unable to perform, which led to two of the roles being read off scripts on stage.

That's partly because most of the cast play several roles; but when you are faced by a scene with two people reading monotonously off a paper script to each other, it does kill the mood and verge on amateurish.

My advice to the company would be to take more understudies on tour as back up.

That said, there were sadly other issues with this production too, particularly the slow pace that prevented any sense of tension or horror.

It was billed as being recommended for ages 11+ with scary scenes but that age is probably due to some sexualised content as there is very little that frightens during the two and half hour show.

The famous story centres around the young and beautiful Dorian Gray, who is taken under the wing of an Avant Garde influential member of London high society.

When a painter who adores Dorian gives him a portrait, it changes the young man's life forever.

Focussing on the positives first, moving the period from Victorian times to modern day works well as there are many parallels with today's hipster fashions. The scenery also created a set that had a nod to Victoriana with shabby chic peeling walls alongside touches of opulence.

It's also amazing to hear how well Wilde's acerbic and witty script is still relevant. Lines like 'there's no-one in the House of Commons worth painting' raised many titters from the audience.

After all, it's a wonderfully written piece of work - even if it does make you feel melancholy about ageing.

Gavin Fowler gives a decent stab at Dorian and creates a good menacing relationship with Jonathan Wrather, playing his mentor Lord Henry Wotton. Wrather will look familiar due to his previous TV roles as Pierce Harris in Emmerdale and Joe Carter in Coronation Street.

It's Daniel Goode as painter Basil Hallward who has the most charisma on stage though. There is something very natural about his performance.

I also liked the fact that the painting of Dorian Gray was a see-through piece of Perspex when first painted as it was literally a true reflection of Dorian as he held it up to his face.

However, I don't think that worked so well when the painting was revealed later on in the story as a slightly damaged piece of Perspex. It left so much to the imagination and I think many in the audience would have welcomed seeing what grotesque image it had converted to.

In general, there seemed to be an assumption that everyone already knew the story so there was lack of explanation and clarity on many parts of the plot.

No-one around Dorian seemed to age, except Lord Henry in a final scene, which made the time period difficult to gather too.

While this production obviously aspired to breathe fresh blood into this age-old tale, it sadly was let down by the understudy situation and a lack of tension that left a disappointing result. To 11-05-19. 

Alison Brinkwell


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