Daring Dorian Gray

Sunday 23rd October 2011

ROW H, Seat 19. Narcissism kicks in the moment I remember I’m only here to watch. Seems wrong not to be fretting back-stage or striding down that aisle to loud music before taking the stage for a poetry slam. I would not want me in the audience: far too bloody critical of everything.

Great set, with a hint of vanity in its height and touches of plush. Starts on time too, despite being sold out. I settle down, wanting to be seduced.

Oscar Wilde need not have declared his genius: the works speak for him. The Picture of Dorian Gray was his only novel. It continues to haunt. I’m expecting this student production to place greater emphasis on the homoerotic than was permissible over a century ago.

But it doesn’t. It massages rather than mugs, slides into the mind, cold and flat as a palate knife, restrained, true to the time of its writing. They are good, these young actors, precise in tone and genteel in manner.

This isn’t a review. I don’t do them. Besides, my daughter’s involvement – as the choreographer – prohibits the distanced assessment required of a critic.

What I sensed, however, was an enthusiasm within the company for exploring both textual authenticity and theatrical texture. It wasn’t easy. We were expected to do some work ourselves, to seek out what was not immediately visible. And that is what most caught my attention.

In the statuesque figure of the portrait and stylised choral speech and movement, the staging acknowledged Brechtian devices in a manner that enhanced rather than distracted. Gray’s rise and fall became both frame and framework, with the masquerade of duplicity omnipresent but never needing to be loudly proclaimed.

Emotion is no less emotional for being motionless.

“Aim for silence,” I was once advised by a teacher of mime, for we garner only pictures of moments. There were many such, that evening.

Afterwards, my daughter talked to an arts funding expert about her next show. We were the last to leave. I admire those who dare to be daring.

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One Response to Daring Dorian Gray

  1. Anonymous says:

    I love the potent restraint of this. If only most reviewers treated language with such respect for what they are writing about. That to me is daring.

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