17 April 2014

Gothic delights with Dorian Gray at Riverside Studios

This was a production that I wanted to see from when it was first announced because anything based on Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray was going to be interesting and a musical even more so.

The final clincher is that the production company was called Ruby in the Dust, and every Neil Young fan knows where that comes from.

In fact I was so keen to see it that I actually went in the preview week rather in the far more usual last week. Riverside Studio 3 was packed for the event, fuller than I had ever seen it before, and there was a good queue well before the doors opened.

That meant that I go in to the theatre later than usual and my preferred seat (second row, first seat to the right of the aisle) was taken and I had to settle for the front row instead. I've still not worked out why I fight for the front row everywhere else but prefer the second at the Riverside. I suspect that there is no logic to that.

Dorian Gray was mostly a standard theatrical drama with the addition of an occasional narrator and some even more occasional music. I think the description "musical" was somewhat misplaced.

I knew the gist of the story (doesn't everybody?) and I even read the book once but the details were lost in my faded memory and so I was seeing much of the story for the first time. And I liked it that way.

The story was as dark and Gothic as I had hoped.

The production was quirky, which is always a good sign. There was a lot of interaction with the audience and having found myself in the front row I got both a small drink of ginger beer with orange and a friendly touch from the rather attractive Lady Victoria Wotton. What was Lord Henry Wotton thinking when he abandoned her?

More quirkiness came in the dialogue. I expected a lot of Wilde, and a lot of it sounded like it was his words, but Daisy's acting career was used as an excuse to add some Shakespeare too, and not just in the parts where she was acting in a Shakespeare play. Oddly, Dorian Gray (the play, not the man) ended with a Shakespearean phrase that was entirely suitable for its meaning and entirely unexpected because of its authorship.

Dorian Gray (the man, not the play) was not at all quirky and Jack Fox had the appropriate calm self-assured swagger in the first half and transformed in to introverted despair in the second. Also noteworthy was Joe Wredden as Dorian's companion Lord Henry Wotton.

Since seeing the show I have seen some negative reviews for the show which mostly seem to be about the show not doing what the reviewers wanted it to do rather than any discernible faults in the production, and it is because reviews are so subjective that I do not read them. My experience, and that of the packed audience on the evening that I was there, was very different. We had a very enjoyable evening which we recognised with an enthusiastic reaction at the end.

A quirky adaptation of a well-know story is always going to involve a lot of risks and will upset some people but I liked what they did here and, if time allowed, would go to see it again to pick up more of the nuances in the writing.

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