The world premiere of Matthew Bourne’s latest production, Dorian Gray, was billed as a highlight of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival. Dorian Gray is a challenging adaption of the Oscar Wilde novel, the Picture of Dorian Gray. This is a dark and sinister piece, very unlike anything Bourne has done previously.
Wilde tells the story of the young and beautiful Dorian who remains young while an ageing portrait of him takes on the signs of his depravity and sins. In Bourne’s adaptation high society Victorian Britain is replaced with the cut throat fashion industry of today. It seems highly appropriate to set the story at a time when our culture’s obsession with image and appearance is celebrated above all else.
This tells of Dorian’s discovery by fashion photographer Basil Hallward, his stratospheric success and his eventual degradation into murder and suicide; not a pleasant tale and it certainly will not have the mass appeal of New Adventures’ previous productions. Nor perhaps is it supposed to. It is difficult for an audience to sympathise, empathise with a perverse and sadistic killer.
There is some classic Bourne humour to lighten the mood - for example Dorian’s appearance on the Jonathan Ross show complete with Four Poofs and a Piano or Dorian’s alarm clock waking him to the music from Sleeping Beauty.
Lez Brotherston’s set is excellent rotating quickly and seamlessly from Dorian’s apartment to photographer’s studio to club with a crystal skull disco ‘ball’. Most disappointing is the dance and choreography. Too much time is spent with the dancers just posing in front of the camera or cavorting at a club or party. The exception to this is the athletic and impressive choreography between Gray and Hallward especially the initial photography / seduction / simulated sex pas de deux.
Some of Dorian Gray is engrossing and absorbing, however it just falls short of delivering the punch expected from this story and from Bourne.
Essential | Worth a watch | One to miss
Dorian Gray is now on tour through the UK.