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A Picture of Dorian Gray, The White Rabbit Cocktail Club

Rob Johnston
Directed by Andy McQuade

★★★★

Pros: A truly original, deliciously dark and modern reimagining of Oscar Wilde’s gothic novel, with top-notch performances to boot.

Cons: Dark lighting and less than ideal sightlines made it sometimes difficult to get the most out of the action, and audiences completely unfamiliar with the source material may feel a bit confused.

Our Verdict: It’s a thrilling and chilling gothic piece brought to life by a diverse and talented cast – not one to miss!

Courtesy of Second Skin

In their most recent production, Second Skin Theatre takes on a modern spin to a gothic novel penned by one of the most famous dramatist’s of all time. Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, is a tale of Victorian intrigue revolving around the mysterious Dorian, who exudes beauty and charm but who lives a sordid secret life. It’s an examination of pride, vanity and greed, and the ways in which we excuse, justify, and sweep under the carpet acts of cruelty and darkness. Rob Johnston’s play appropriates the characters and themes of Wilde’s novel and situates them in London, 2005, shortly before the 2012 Olympic Games location is announced.

The concept is both highly original and intelligently grounded in a well-known piece of literature. Potential viewers who aren’t familiar with the book may want to do some quick Wikipedia research to ensure you’ll grasp the nuances and full weight of the story.

The production stars Laura Pradelska, who was recently featured on HBO’s Game of Thrones, as Dorian, adding another delightful nuance to the show. In this way, the production perpetuates the queerness of Wilde’s original text, and Pradelska’s gender-ambiguous performance makes Dorian all the more charismatic and fascinating.

Pradelska is joined by a terrific supporting cast, each of whom captures the essence of each remarkably different character with skill. Eloise Black approaches Sybil with heartfelt honesty and beauty, Toby Liszt captures the angst and anger of James, while remaining charming and engaging, while George Collie’s Baz brings humor and camp to the stage – a true ghost of Wilde’s voice.

The script itself is well written, lyrical, and thrilling. It’s always a treat to see old material brought to new life with a true original vision, and playwright Rob Johnson accomplishes a unique and thought-provoking conversation with Wilde’s original text, situating the fable of greed and vanity amidst modern and approachable issues.

Few issues arose, mostly dark lighting in the White Rabbit’s basement and tricky sight-lines occasionally made it difficult to see all of the action – the talented cast members were well-nuanced and fantastically subtle at times, and it’s a shame to miss some of those moments due to circumstantial issues. Ghost make-up at the conclusion was a bit problematic as well – it seemed a bit sloppy as opposed the crisp and minimalistic approach taken throughout the rest. These however, are nitpicks at best, because the show offers a truly exciting and engaging bit of entertainment.

Wilde’s novel isn’t a tough or long read, so check it out – or at least a film adaptation, and then treat yourself to an evening at the charming White Rabbit Cocktail Club for a seriously thoughtful and thrilling piece of work from Second Skin Theatre!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

A Picture of Dorian Grey runs at The White Rabbit Cocktail Club until 23 June. To book, visit http://apictureofdoriangray.eventbrite.co.uk/

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Everything Theatre
Founded in 2011, Everything Theatre started life as a pokey blog run by two theatre enthusiasts and – thanks to the Entry Pass Scheme for 16-25 year olds – regular National Theatre goers. Today, we are run by part-time volunteers from a wide array of backgrounds. Among our various contributors are people who work in theatre, but also people who work in law, medicine, events, marketing and even psychiatry! We are all united by our love for the London theatre scene.