Lucy Shaw’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s novel takes the form of a mythic journey into what art is, who we are, and fluid perceptions of beauty.
Beautiful young Dorian Gray is seduced by Henry Wotton, who believes that hedonism is a form of art. Beauty is the thing that matters most. Dorian sells his soul and remains ageless, while in the attic his portrait ages into ugliness. It’s a well-known story, one that has become a part of our culture.
Shaw’s adaptation is intriguingly non-linear. It swims with ideas of gender, societal and moral expectations, and the emotional complexity of being human. Tom Littler’s enthralling production is visually pleasing with a creative, mesmerising use of sound. William Reynolds’ set is velvety and dark, making his lighting design a focal point, while the clever use of voice-over allows for a separation of the internal and external worlds of the narrative, as does the constant slow-dancing and delicate movements of the characters.
The cast is impressively versatile. Not only do the actors play multiple roles within the production itself, they’ve also rehearsed several different versions in order for the audience to experience the play with differently gendered characters. Both male and female actors play Dorian and Wotton in different combinations over the run.
In this way, Littler and Shaw’s dynamic interpretation brings a piece of Victorian social commentary into the here and now without losing the direct link to the original.