Dorian Gray @ Leicester Square Theatre, London

cast list
Allie Croker, Robert Donnelly, Joanna Hickman, Mostyn James, Vincent Manna and James Lloyd Pegg

adapted and directed by
Linnie Reedman
The tiny basement of the Leicester Square Theatre has undergone a makeover.

It now abounds with red velvet chairs, candle-topped tables and burlesque dancers.

These somewhat unnecessary refurbishments are all in aid of its current production of Dorian Gray, based on the novel by Oscar Wilde.

Things begin with Basil, an upper class painter, starting to fall in love with his new muse Dorian Gray (played here by Mostyn James), a young socialite who he meets at a party.

Unsure of how Dorian feels about him, Basil shares his feelings with his friend Lord Henry who insists that he and Dorian get acquainted. Upon meeting Dorian the pair soon become firm friends and Lord Henry enlightens him on the trouble and woes of his youth and beauty, which have now been immortalised in Basil’s painting. Thus begins Dorian’s love/hate relationship with the portrait Basil creates for him, as it begins to grow older in his place; as the image in the picture decays, he remains a fresh faced young man destined to live forever.

In bringing this familiar story to the stage (not long after Matthew Bourne’s dance version), it would seem that director Linnie Reedman has chosen style over substance; great measures have been taken to recreate the atmosphere of Victorian London in this tiny theatre, but less work has been done on the content and cohesiveness of the production.

The main problem is that the space doesn’t lend itself well to such a staging. The numerous exits and entrances, combined with actors performing amongst the audience, feel very chaotic and the use of the interval bar as the bar within the play make it more like an exercise in amateur dramatics than a profession production. The play also jumps between abstract and literal representations that simply don’t gel well together. Plus the decision to have the audience seated as if they were in a cabaret makes the already small theatre cramped and uncomfortable.

The over embellishment of the stage and setting are only successful in detracting from what is, overall, a decent script. The play has some witty one-liners, as one would expect given the source material, but they are often undermined.

The only real highlight of the production is the soundtrack; composer Joe Evans has done an excellent job at creating some beautiful and effective music to define the era.

While the performances in the play aren’t bad, they are not great either, but one fears this is more to do with the confusion of the direction than their actual acting ability.

Dorian Gray has the potential to be an enjoyable and interesting piece of theatre, however an overzealous set designer and slightly misguided director have hindered rather than helped it in this case.

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