Pros: Intricate characters and an excellent atmosphere created by a dedicated cast and creative team
Cons: The timing of songs and musical interludes could have been better, and the stylistic touches occasionally distracted from the script.
This classic tale takes a new twist as Pregnant Fish Theatre bring a whole new meaning and life to this timeless novel. As Tom Drayton states in his directors note, the 125th anniversary of Oscar Wilde’s wonderful story seemed the best time for this company to introduce a new and abstract version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Shamefully, having never read the entire novel myself I went to The Space with an open mind and a willingness to be transported to another time.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a tragedy. It’s the story of a young, innocent man who is so attached to his youth and good looks, displayed in a painting, that he’s willing to risk himself and everyone around him to remain young forever. But this story takes a drastic and heartbreaking turn.
The Space’s versatile performance space was dressed simply, the era instead being depicted through costume, music and script. Upon arrival, the audience were entertained by Geoffery Higgs, James Long and Adam Dagen-Smith’s compositions. Sultry and cynical, this music brought the performance to life from the very beginning.
Within the first twenty minutes, the audience were introduced to many different, larger than life characters. At times, this was confusing and made the story hard to follow, but with time everything fell into place. As luck would have it, this is when the fire alarm went off. The staff at The Space were very professional and organised, and the cast did very well to carry on and bring back the atmosphere when we were all returned back to the theatre.
The dedication from the cast in creating their intricate characters cannot be faulted. David Hepburn’s performance of the illustrious and tainted Dorian Gray was spectacular, and the chemistry with Emily Watkins, who played Sybil, made the ups and down of the relationship between the two characters hard to look away from. This was an ensemble performance, however. Although each actor gave a strong and entertaining interpretation of their characters, the performance as whole could not have been done without even one of them. The hilarity brought to their parts by Faye Charmichael, Hannah Tate and Jamie Lee Dagen-Smith lifted the entire performance. Aneurin Pascoe, Rodrigo De La, Leah Francis, Bibi Francis and Markus Pietsch all had equally outstanding turns, and their performances held the production together.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure the various elements of the show glued together successfully at all times. The excellent composition and lyrics didn’t always compliment Tom Drayton’s delicate direction. At times, I felt significant moments that were happening between characters were lost by the intervention of a song that didn’t necessarily need to be there. Being a huge fan of musical theatre, I’m all for throwing songs in where they fit, but I also believe that some moments work better with just words, letting the audience soak up the atmosphere laid bare. The abstract movement and dialect distracted from the script, sometimes during moments that were too important to miss. Having said that, using the ensemble as props and set was very positively received and worked well in this production. All in all then, this was an exciting, fresh look at a classic tale.
Original Author: Oscar Wilde
Adapted and Directed By: Tom Drayton
Composers: Geoffery Higgs, James Long and Adam Dagen-Smith
Producer: Pregnant Fish Theatre
Box Office: 020 7515 7799
Booking Link: https://space.org.uk/event/the-picture-of-dorian-gray/
Booking Until: 2 April 2016