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There’s rich pickings for anyone willing to mine the layers of Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. It’s a wonderfully dark text, brimming with themes of art, beauty and aestheticism, and juicer than a crate of oranges.
But Poise Performance have managed to make a painfully wooden adaptation where the audience are shuffled awkwardly around a sparse space in Peckham’s hip art café for 90 minutes. There’s a lot of choreography and some video projections, but despite these attempts to spice the production up, it falls flat.
The script is the main problem. Most of the lively debate, dialogue and drama in Wilde’s tale of the young Gray – an innocent corrupted by a wayward socialite who seems to retain his good looks as everyone around him ages – has been cut. What’s left is a flimsy, distinctly un-evocative take on the story. The characters are bland with hardly any development for the three actors to get their teeth into.
It’s often difficult to work out why the many, often lengthy movement sequences are there at all. At one point, actress and choreographer Jennifer Essex, who plays Lord Henry Wotton, performs a dance tinged with slapstick while wearing a bowler hat and balancing on her head. It looks good, but what this has to do with Wilde’s text, I really couldn’t tell you.
The performers are fine, but when it’s not Essex doing the dancing, the movement gets pretty clunky – which is how most of the production feels. Unlike the classic novel, this show is fundamentally lacking in grace.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell