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The Picture of Dorian Gray at the Churchill Theatre

The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Picture of Dorian Gray

For those who only know Oscar Wilde through his light comedies such as The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere’s Fan, this adaptation of his only novel will come as something of a shock as it is a much darker affair. In fact, it is Wilde’s take on the Faust legend. Its publication caused a scandal as the author seemed to be questioning the basis of morality: he rejected, according to the adaptor and director Sean Aydon, “the naturalism that had come before from writers such as Dickens”. “We have attempted… to leave room for the audience to explore their own darkest thoughts, fear and desires” he continues.

Gavin Fowler,, in the role of ever-youthful Dorian is very believably portrayed; he is able to show throughout the play the descent of the character into deep, dark ‘pleasures’.

Jonathan Wrather is cast in the role of Lord Henry Wotton, the person who gradually indoctrinates Dorian into a debauched life. He is most successful when we meet him in Act Two, fully conveying the depth of feeling of the role, as well as his age (he has aged eighteen years whereas Dorian has not!) – a very unpleasant creature!

Daniel Goode is the most successful of the three male protagonists in dealing with the rather ‘wordy’ script, able to give the scenes in which he appears great pace and energy, and in his physicality, that of an artist who realises that on painting Dorian Gray he has just achieved the best work he will ever do, and that life hereafter will all be downhill.

The other roles in the play, and novel, are mere cyphers in Dorian’s downhill rush to oblivion and Kate Dobson, Adele James, Phoebe Pryce and Samuel Townsend provide sterling support here.

Imaginative lighting design by Matt Haskins and Sound/Music by Jon Mcleod greatly aid the creation of atmosphere.

What prevents me from giving this production five stars is the set design by Sarah Beaton. One simple narrow three wall box set of a decaying room is set downstage, but because of its right angles, only those sitting in the centre of the auditorium have a clear view of all the stage: everyone else, especially at the Churchill Theatre where the auditorium is 40 seats wide, has a restricted view! In fact, FOH staff spent 20 minutes before the play moving people so that they could see – I was one of them! This major design flaw will surely be altered before the play begins its tour to Richmond, Horsham, Malvern etc next week!

An uncomfortable play to watch perhaps, imaginatively adapted, acted and directed, but well worth seeing on its three-month tour. I wish it every success – just remember to book your seat in the middle of the auditorium!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

This bold new production from the classic novel celebrates Wilde’s wonderful language and will appeal to fans old and new. Featuring Wilde’s famous wit, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a fast-paced thriller that will have audiences on the edge of their seats right up until the final moment.

In a society obsessed with youth and beauty, Dorian Gray is given the chance to keep his looks forever. But at what cost…?

The cast includes Jonathan Wrather (Emmerdale, Coronation Street) as Lord Henry Wotton along with Gavin Fowler (RSC Troilus and Cressida) in the titular role of Dorian Gray, Daniel Goode as Bail Hallward, Kate Dobson as Sybil Vane and Adele James in the roles of both Catherine Vane and Ellen Campbell.

Tilted Wig Productions, Malvern Theatres and Churchill Theatre present
7th – 9th March 2019


  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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