Writer: Oscar Wilde
Adaptor: Neil Bartlett
Director: Steve Buckwald
Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin
As the play begins with chorus standing around in mime-mode could the show be re-named “The Statue of Dorian Gray”?This is quite an arty/stylised version with the antics of the chorus sometimes overshadowing the principals and the plot. It is often their narrative inserts, giggling minor rôles and stern moral attitude that drive the drama.
It is sad that so much of the evil is declaimed by the characters rather than illustrated in short cameos. The great exception is the powerfully executed murder, which was excellent. Making such a gruesome event believable on stage is a credit to the actors and the director. Despite the talents of these second-year students the play screamed out for more action.
Even the irrepressible chirpiness of Stuart Crowther as declaimer-in-chief Lord Henry Wotton does not ward off the occasional feeling of dullness.The almost tongue-in-cheek way Neil Bartlett’s peppers his script with a surfeit of Wilde-like witticisms does irritate after a while. Joshua Glenister not only has the good looks to tackle anti-hero Gray, but the sense not to overplay the rôle.
This is countered by Crowther’s delightful twinkle as he eggs on Gray to take the primrose path of dalliance almost as a philosophical duty. Crowther is also to be commended for his triumph of ageing neatly underscoring the unblemished youth of his friend.
The stage presence award must go to John James Busa as Francis the Butler whose relative stillness provides a sinister edge to counter this often rather too casual look at evil.Harriet Clark is a joy to watch as Sybil Vane, who enters as an adored glamorous woman only to be brought down by the torture of Gray’s rejection. James (Robert Hadden) is also a compelling figure as Sybil’s brother whose life is poisoned by his quest for revenge.
Director Steve Buckwald shows his skill at moving his characters and chorus around the stage. The difficulties of changing sets are minimised with fluent action by the cast and neat staging.It is pleasing to see that a chorus, who also fill the minor rôles, is not neglected by the director with most of the young actors ensuring that their parts do not go unnoticed. Their ability and keenness play a very important part in this show’s success.
Both lighting designer (Charlotte Burton) and set designer (Grace Smart) add to the evening’s enjoyment. These often unsung rôles certainly cannot be ignored when the central character is a portrait which rarely leaves the stage.
Runs until 3rd May.