In 1890, Oscar Wilde’s novella ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ caused outrage. In 2014 Ruby in the Dust’s adaptation with songs sidesteps moral reprehensibility by being simply risible.
‘Dorian Gray’ proudly boasts the newest offspring from two acting dynasties: Jack Fox (son of James, brother to Laurence, etcetera) and Daisy Bevan, of the Redgrave clan (she’s the granddaughter of Vanessa and daughter of Joely Richardson). But even with such a genetically impressive line-up this is an amateurish-feeling show.
Linnie Reedman’s production involves a chorus of masked figures mouthing echoes (echoes, echoes…) of the text like some angsty sixth-form production. Composer Joe Evans’s melancholic but frankly mundane melodies are half-heartedly performed; Katherine Heath’s lofty set is far too shabby chic for Wilde’s tastes; and why is Reedman’s narrator a campy theatrical type who’d be more at home in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’?
Fox gives a rudimentary performance as Gray, the beautiful and corrupt protagonist who sells his soul for a face that never ages and a painting that reveals every indiscretion. He fumbles the subtle shifts from vainglorious innocent to hedonistic charlatan, while Bevan, an actress full of velvety toned gravitas, is miscast as Sibyl Vane, Gray’s vacuous love interest.
What saves this show from unequivocal banishment to the attic is Antony Jardine as lovesick puppy Basil Hallward and Joe Wredden’s debauched Lord Henry. The former brings integrity to this increasingly silly spectacle, while the latter moves and pontificates with a tempting, insalubrious elegance.
In the end, though, any grimaces Wilde’s Faustian drama might cause here are not down to provocative moral questioning, just bad theatre.
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Truly terrible production,.Wooden acting with no passion, actors seemed exhausted and unable to give any 'oomph' - all 'wet'.Monotonous, monotone voices, they seemed bored and so were we. Fluffed lines, inaudible in some parts. Seemed to be just going through the motions. If this is the best an acting dynasty can do the future of the acting profession is grim. Don't waste an evening.