Ambassadors Theatre , Covent Garden Tuesday September 23 2014 19:30
 (© Ellie Kurttz)
© Ellie Kurttz
 (© Ellie Kurttz)
© Ellie Kurttz

‘Selfie’ seamlessly swaps the vainglorious Victorian bohemians and artists in Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ for twenty-first century hipsters with preposterous beards and a destructive obsession with the newest thing on the block.

Adapted by Brad Birch and the National Youth Theatre company for its new West End season, ‘Selfie’ sticks broadly to Wilde’s plot but swaps the gender of the lead. Dorian is a woman (Kate Kennedy), and she’s a rarity in that her image doesn’t need to be Photoshopped in order to look good.

Hedonist Harry (Dominic Grove) makes the hitherto oblivious Dorian aware of her beauty. He takes her to the best parties in town and makes her the star of an empty scene. She quickly becomes the most cold-hearted and self-obsessed of the lot. But while Dorian maintains her startling looks regardless of how much she parties, internet profile photographer Basil’s snap of her begins to alter of its own accord.

Paul Roseby’s spunky production features some excellent video projections from Simon Eves and superb off-key bursts of Talking Heads songs performed by the cast. There’s nice ironic anachronistic detail in Verity Quinn’s designs, which humorously parody fashions from the original novel (the Google Glass monocle is brilliant). The NYT cast of 18 to 25-year-olds is accomplished, and Kennedy’s performance is strong. But it is Ellie Bryans as Dorian’s innocent young love interest Sybil, and Fabian McCallum as Sybil’s angry rough East End brother who are the most convincing of the lot.

The text, however, is less successful. The piece labours over the wrong moments, ie vacuous parties and fringe characters, when it should be focusing on the relationships between the main characters. There’s little palpable connection between Dorian and Ragevan Vasan’s Basil, while the subplot of Dorian’s relationship with Sybil feels incidental, rather than vital, to the story.

There are flashes of something great in ‘Selfie’, but in all the plentiful, wry ideas, the poignancy and horror of Wilde’s rich, affecting text is lost.


Venue name: Ambassadors Theatre
Address: West Street
Transport: Rail/Tube: Charing Cross; Tube: Leicester Square
Price: £17.50-£25