Aaaaarrrggghh! I have never been in such a quandary when it comes to writing a review about a production before. I love the original Oscar Wilde classic so I was excited and intrigued to see this modern, musical interpretation by Another Soup. As a theatre company, Another Soup create plays in a style they call “Brechtian Immersion”. This is the belief that theatre should be poignant, compelling and immersive – something which takes audiences somewhere they would not usually go.
Whilst sitting in the bar, characters in Victorian dress start to appear. (I even bumped into Dorian Gray in the toilet!) It would appear that the show has started. Instead of being a ticketed event, there is a “guest list” and we enter the auditorium as if we have been invited to a party. All the seats have been removed so we have to arrange ourselves around the space, sometimes being shuffled around by one of the characters.
The set, in my opinion was unnecessarily crass. It was like being in a squat with graffiti on the walls, expletives and even a depiction of a male member! Not at all the Victorian mansion that one would expect a dashing lothario to reside in.
An amusing monologue from Henry (Thomas Judd) starts the performance and immediately we know that this is not going to be a production like any other that has been seen before. Judd himself is the absolute star of the show. He has a deep, rich timbre to his voice that creates the perfect Wildean character. His comedic timing is impeccable and he can play with the audience and slip in the odd ad-lib with ease.
I mentioned that this is also a musical version. The majority of the story is expressed to us in song. The score, composed by Jo Turner is modern, although parts of it are reminiscent of Sondheim. There is no big orchestra just a piano, guitar and violin. Felicity Sparks and Isaac Lusher provide the accompaniment as well as playing characters. Sparks is another incredible talent. Her fingers are barely off the keyboard but she also manages to remain in her character (Mrs Leaf) throughout the entire performance. She sings, delivers lines and dusts! I found myself watching her for quite a large portion of the evening. She really is quite captivating.
Samuel Woodhams plays our protagonist. He is indeed a beautiful creature and his topless scenes are a welcome sight. I fear, however that this may be his strongest point in this production as his performance was, at times weak in comparison to some of the others on stage. I never got the sense of Dorian being particularly amorous or then, in turn especially malevolent.
On that note, the entire story was sparse. Yes, we had a painting but if one was not aware that the picture was supposed to be ageing rather than our handsome lead, then this wasn’t particularly clear. Being a one-act play of 80 minutes, it felt as if it was rushed through and therefore failed to tell the story properly. Maybe it could be expanded to two acts and elaborated on. If you are a stickler for tradition then this is not the version of Dorian Gray for you.
That being said, I was highly entertained. At points, we were all involved. Getting up to dance. Being stepped over or spoken to. The songs are strong, as are the singers. Blair Robertson (Basi) has a beautiful voice that I could have listened to repeatedly. Felicity Kirwin gives us three characters, all different and all very strong. There was, however just something missing.
Review by Dickie Neil
To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the first publication of Oscar Wilde’s seminal novel, Another Soup are bringing their award-winning immersive new musical to the King’s Head Theatre. Having debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe, Another Soup are now flinging their doors open wide to a waiting London audience
22nd March to 12th April 2015