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Creation (Pictures for Dorian) review at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts – ‘transfixing’

Gob Squad's Creation (Pictures of Dorian) at Brighton Festival. Photo: Carys Lavin
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The faces of theatre past, present and yet to come are brought together in this unforgettable new work by British-German collective Gob Squad.

A devised riff on the themes of Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray, it recruits six Brighton performers – three over 60, and three Sussex University drama students – to work alongside three middle-aged members of the once radical young Gob Squad. What all share is a love of the limelight – plus an ability to be quite exquisitely natural and open beneath it.

Using cameras, frames, rotating plinths, and mirrored screens that ripple darkly in memory of Narcissus, Gob Squad positions its recruits in a series of baroque poses. The company members want to project their pasts, and apprehend their futures. The guest performers are ‘material’, casually manhandled into conceptual artworks with titles like And You Can Never Get It Back. Comic parallels are drawn with Ikebana, the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging, and the modern soul-selling art of Instagram.

The result is a transfixing and revealing meditation on youth and age, art and life, visibility and invisibility, and the power triangle of art-spectator-subject.

It is sly yet sumptuous, playfully experimental yet heady and deeply human. Creation (Pictures for Dorian) is also more calculated than it appears: a slightly baggy middle section speaks to Gob Squad’s experience of touching 50.

A co-commission between Brighton Festival, LIFT and Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, this theatrical triptych encourages you not to grasp at youth but to savour ageing – and makes a powerful artistic case for more multi-generational theatrical meetings.

 

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Verdict
Playful, sumptuous and revealing meditation on Oscar Wilde’s themes
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