Watermill Theatre – Newbury
A Picture of Dorian Gray
Adapted for Stage by: Phoebe Eclair-Powell
Directed by: Owen Horsley
Miss Dorian Gary? Well yes in fact this adaptation, being intended for presentation in schools as part of a GCSE curriculum, required only three female actors, a minimum of props including a upvc doorframe (doubling as picture frame and door frame!) and a tiny stage area delineated by white tape to enclose the performance in a school-sized format. Cleverly the 80’s fluorescent lighting against a totally black back drop picked out the floor frame and the door frame and enhanced their significance the frame developing as much relevance in the stage area as each of the actors.
In literature the ‘doppelganger’ device has been regularly employed. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Daphne Du Maurer’s Scapegoat being just two examples and Oscar Wilde’s A Portrait of Dorian Gray being another. In their different ways they all explore the tensions between the real and the observed aspects of human nature, the character’s weaknesses, vanity and lack of self control and his response to the tension through the workings of guilt, conscience, loss of self-esteem and ultimate break down to destruction.
Employing an all female cast was inspirational in my view. In this age such morally thoughtful storylines benefit from being gender independent, Dorian Gray could be anyone, straight male or female, LBTG or whatever, and after a while into the performance such issues were lost in the tension maintained beautifully between the expectations of external pressures, vanity and weakness of a public Dorian versus the soul of Dorian as recorded in the ‘picture’.
It’s all very meaty stuff and this was a robust adaption both entertaining and thought provoking which should be received well by the target school audience of literature students. Could they, I wonder be persuaded to imbibe an even stronger dose of moral medicine by renaming this adaption Selfie of Dorian Gray.