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Dorian Gray

The sense of his own beauty came on him like a revelation.— Oscar Wilde writing in Dorian Gray
Dorian Gray
Richard Winsor as Dorian Gray
(Photo: Bill Cooper)
Matthew Bourne's productions transcend exquisitely choreographed dance steps to take the audience on an emotional journey. From Oscar Wilde's novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bourne takes the story of a beautiful young man whose corruption showed in a portrait rather than in his face and rewrites it for this century.

Set in a society which worships youth and beauty, the self obsession and hedonism are fitting. The artist Basil Hallward (Aaron Sillis) becomes a fashion photographer and Dorian Gray (Richard Winsor) is the face of a new fragrance for men on advertising hoardings everywhere. Dorian's older mentor Lord Henry Wootton from the novel becomes Lady H (Michela Meazza), "a powerful, iconic figure in art fashion circles who takes Dorian under her wing and introduces him to a world that he is eager to explore." Wilde's actress Sibyl Vane becomes a male ballet dancer at Covent Garden, Cyril Vane (Christopher Marney). Bourne has made this last gender swap because in the novel the heterosexual love affair between Dorian and Sibyl struck an odd note in a book that is about homo-eroticism.

The exciting and witty production opens in a photographer's studio with edgy electronic music to the poses struck, shots taken of models in black, the men topless, the women in trousers and bras. The photographer Basil Hallward energetically cavorts and seduces to get the images he envisages. The black and white design is arrestingly visual, aesthetic and dramatic. The beautiful photographs Basil has taken are shown in the dominant monochrome. The dancers square their thumbs as if framing a picture or circle thumb and forefinger like a lens to envisage what the finished photograph will look like as they peer through the apertures.

Into this environment comes a waiter dressed in white. He looks unspoilt and , innocent and as the last to leave, alone with the photographer, he gets noticed. Together Dorian and Basil explore their sexuality in a heightened expression of dance and passion and sex. They strip down to their designer underwear and explore each other's bodies in imaginative, choreographed invention.

Dorian's career is launched but the powerful Lady H wants sexual favours in return for her patronage. He complies, but we can see from his uncomfortable expression that thiscareer advancement isnot born of passion. We see the Science of Beauty as the company in white coats and blue gloves perfect the body beautiful. Similarly Dorian is suited in fashion, stands on a podium and the fragrance advertising campaign for Immortal hits the billboards.

A celebrity guest appearance on a television late night chat show is danced as a parody. Dorian beds Cyril Vane, almost a caricature of a ballet dancer in a ridiculous white cloak, whom he sees dance an overly ornate Romeo. Bourne likes an occasional dig at the ballet professionals! Dorian's promiscuous descent see him taking cocaine and the mood of the piece becomes increasingly dark. Hanging off the wall is a doppelganger, a twin who dances Dorian's corrupted soul, to close the first act.

The second act opens with a light hearted "many in a bed" scene but the story becomes more sinister as the gap widens between Dorian's angelic appearance and his evil life. In the second act, there is a scene set in a club behind rust covered doors where a disco ball shaped like a skull places ovals of mirrored light on the stage. Dorian looks at his reflection in cracked mirrors, is stalked by his doppelganger and black tears fall from his eyes in a portrait.

Dorian murders Basil in a bath. Finally Lady H tries to protect her investment but the paparazzi are on to the celebrity downfall.

Paule Constable's lighting gives us the colour of the show— the television appearance in fuschia pink, the scientists in green. Lez Brotherston's designs are startling black and white, providing style and elegance. Terry Davies' music is contemporary with rock influences to back up the spectacular dance. The emotion of Wilde's story of the unspoken love between men finds its expression in this impressive, interpretative dance production.

Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray is a triumph!

Dorian Gray
Devised and directed by Matthew Bourne after the novel by Oscar Wilde

Starring: Richard Winsor, Michela Meazza, Aaron Sillis
With: Christopher Marney, Jared Hagerman, Ashley Bain, Drew McOnie, Ebony Molina, Joe Walking, Shaun Walters, Chloe Wilkinson
Composer: Terry Davies
Design: Lez Brotherton
Lighting: Paule Constable
Video: Mark Grimmer for fifty Nine Productions
Sound: Paul Groothuis
Choreography: Matthew Bourne and the Company
Running time: One hour 55 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0844 412 4300
Booking at Sadler's Wells to 14th September 2008
Theatre Royal Norwich, Sept 16th - 20th 2008
Theatre Royal Newcastle, Sept 23rd - 27th 2008
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 7th September 2008 at Sadler's Wells, London EC1 (Tube: Angel)
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