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A CurtainUp London Review
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The audience numbers are essentially very small for this involving, intimate immersion into the characters and events of the Victorian novel. You are welcomed by Dorian's manservant Victor (Mark Laughtone) and the house keeper Mrs Leaf (Louise Larchbourne) who show you into a room at Basil Hallward's (Johannes Lundberg) studio where the famous portrait of the beautiful young man was painted.
This is difficult to review because I want to whet your appetite but not to spoil any of the surprises. Basil, the artist seems shy and awkward, unlike his sophisticated but jaded patron, Lord Henry Wotton, whose stream of witty aphorisms makes him seem like a walking dictionary of English bon mots. It is as though his mother said to him, "If you can't say something witty, better say nothing at all!" Lord Henry, undoubtedly Wilde's mouthpiece, plays incessantly with the expected and turns cliche head over heels to produce that Wildean wit that provokes and amuses with statements like, "Work is the curse of the drinking classes." Lord Henry is the one to promote pleasure seeking to Dorian and as played by Samuel Orange we can feel his corrupting influence.
And then there is the beautiful Dorian. They didn't give me a photo so I'll have to describe this Adonis as looking a little like Eddie Redmayne's brother with long curling hair and pale aristocratic features and of course a wonderful mien. When we first see the portrait, in a coup de theatre, I gasped with amazement at the likeness! A pianist, Robert Hazle, plays the piano to accompany the scenes. When looking from the garden into the house, smoke and mirrors will encroach on our view changing perception.
As the audience you will move around to follow the action, into the garden where the actress Sybil Vane (Ciara Styles) will perform in the theatre watched by three men in toppers from a box on the first floor of this Victorian house. You'll see Dorian's bedroom with its black silk sheets and be surprised by Mrs Vane (Anna Dane)'s living quarters. You may even witness some of the debauchery that shocked Victorian society.
Don't go expecting a museum type experience of detailed authenticity but enjoy the quirky and the unexpected and you'll have tremendous fun and enter into the imaginative spirit of the evening with characters close enough to touch.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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