Following a string of successful adaptations, most recently What a Carve Up!, Henry Filloux-Bennett turns the spotlight on one of Oscar Wilde’s most prolific pieces. This digital adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray is a co-production of several theatres, the Barn Theatre, Lawrence Batley Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre, Oxford Playhouse and Theatr Clwyd, and demonstrates beyond a doubt the power of smaller regional theatres.
If Instagram had been around in the days of Oscar Wilde, then it’s very possible the infamous portrait in the attic would have been substituted for a heavily filtered selfie, and that’s the heart of the concept for this very 21st century interpretation. In an age where image is everything, and the quest for ‘likes’, ‘followers’ and ‘subscribers’ can become all consuming, Henry Filloux-Bennett very astutely transposes the life of Dorian Gray to the modern world.
In a very similar construct to What a Carve Up!, the story is unravelled through a series of interviews, with Stephen Fry acting as the glue that hold everything together. This works well, not just for presenting the story, but also to navigate the ever-changing restrictions currently placed on producers. As the interviewer (Fry) tries to piece together events, with input from Lady Narborough (Joanna Lumley), we too unravel the secrets of young Mr. Gray and his associates.
From the interviews come vignettes of the story, more specially recorded footage this time as opposed to stock, which really helps bring the story to life. It’s clear in places where certain decisions have had to be taken to ensure social distancing was possible, but director, Tamara Harvey has done an incredible job of making it all make sense. Scenes where actors couldn’t be in the same room are designed to be believable nonetheless, and everything has a sense of purpose.
As would be expected from Wilde’s Dorian Gray, the hedonism practically oozes from the screen, and it’s almost a given that a story so heavily focused on beauty needs to look beautiful, even to those watching on a small screen. This is where this The Picture of Dorian Gray triumphs, Benjamin Collins has created a cinematic tour de force; a piece of theatre that would hold its own at the world’s largest film festivals.
Fionn Whitehead’s portrayal of Dorian is enigmatic and seductive; as his digital image remains youthful and attractive the grotesque personality takes physical form, captivating the audience at every turn. Emma McDonald gives an emotionally charged performance as Sibyl Vane, while Alfred Enoch delivers a flawless interpretation of Harry Wotton.
Henry Filloux-Bennett reincarnates Dorian Gray for the age of social media, pitting the ugliness against the beauty, and just as in real life, it is all too often the monstrous side that inflicts the most damage. A stellar cast, dexterous staging, and an ingenious script means that this The Picture of Dorian Gray achieves perfection #NoFilter.
The Picture of Dorian Gray Streams 16th – 31st March 2021. Tickets are on sale here