by Oscar Wilde
Presented by The Alchemic Order
Pros: The combination of promenade theatre and “Dorian Gray’s private home” gives this piece something quite special.
Cons: Conversations felt slow, the pauses between lines sometimes dragged. However this might have been because of last-minute-casting.
Our Verdict: A different evening that will transport into the debauched upper echelons of Victorian society, albeit it is a little rough around the edges.
|Courtesy of Sebastian Lister and The Alchemic Order|
What do you do when the actor who is the main protagonist in your adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s one and only novel has his jaw broken mere weeks into a show’s run? Why, you find a handsome young woman who is willing and able to take on the role of the titled character and play him with such vigour that the audience leave without realising anything is amiss. And that is precisely what The Alchemic Order, run by Artistic Director Samuel Orange, decided to do.
Staged in an undisclosed location in Greenwich, The Picture of Dorian Gray invites you into Gray’s personal residence. Through the use of actors and lighting, our small group of seven were led through an immersive promenade performance. Guided through the front door by the house-keeper, we were introduced to the butler before being led into the garden for a drinks reception at dusk. The house has been adapted for this performance; rooms have been altered and decorated to depict Victorian interiors. This included spooky, dark-panelled bedrooms and the soft leather upholstered Gentleman’s Club with hidden doors.
For me the setting was the finest part of this show. As you can imagine it’s not the first time I’ve seen theatre outside of a classic venue, but the artistic use of the house’s nooks and crannies was notable. I appreciated the use of the glass floor looking into a basement and the windows on higher floors looking into the garden, giving us but a mere glimpse into the story. I got a real sense of being a fly on the wall rather than just an audience member watching a show. I did however feel there was definitely opportunity for an even greater use of the unique space as we were often left in the garden, watching from the outside looking in.
It also became clear why this is not done more often. By turning an actual living space into a performance venue you mix the actors with the audience and at times I felt the magic of the theatre dimmed slightly when you caught glimpses of things that would normally be done back-stage. This is probably something that is easily overcome. Perhaps by shepherding the audience a little more you could bring a structure to the piece which doesn’t detract from the intended feel of the show but also polishes the edges.
Clearly this show got off to a rocky start. With their main man laid up at home, the Gray I saw was on her second night in the show after four long days of rehearsals. She is to be applauded for her determination. She performed well although perhaps made Gray slightly too personable considering the acts of cruelty the character executes throughout the story. Also, despite taking the evening performance a tad too slowly, perhaps forgivable in her second night on the job, there were certainly sparks of her performance that intrigued me. Her portrayal of Gray’s emotional complexity, the ability to switch from uncontainable love and humour to deep anguish and anger did not go unnoticed.
The rest of the ensemble performed well, Samuel Orange who played the dandy playboy Lord Henry reminded me of Rupert Everett as a likable yet untrustworthy reprobate and Ashlie Walker plays a delicate Sibyl Vane. They are all clearly enjoying putting this piece on but the show will get better and better the more they relax.
I enjoyed the tale despite there being a number of moments during the evening where the production team attempted to represent the bleak and gothic supernatural aspect of the story through music and choreographed movement or dance. These segments didn’t particularly work for me, particularly at the end where those of the audience who did not know the book ending were left a little confused as to what actually happened.
Overall this show is worth seeing if you are a fan of alternative theatre or if you like the book. It is clear this piece has been fondly pieced together by a lover of both. They loyally stick close to the clever words of Wilde and the staging of this play is a clever idea, the specifics of which I have yet to see done anywhere else, which although not explored to its full potential offers its audience a fun and different evening.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
The Picture of Dorian Gray runs until the 28th September 2013.
Visit www.thealchemicorder.com for more information and to book tickets.