18th April 2021
‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is a classic text written by Oscar Wilde. For the Barn Theatre‘s latest online production, co-produced with Lawrence Batley Theatre, the New Wolsey Theatre, Oxford Playhouse and Theatr Clwyd, Henry Filloux-Bennett had adapted the story and set it in 2020 Britain. With the rise of Zoom meetings, online quizzes and home schooling, online has very much become the norm and the way we have been forced to live our lives. In this adaptation of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, Dorian finds himself immersed into a social media obsessed world and begins to wonder if everyone is really always as perfect as they seem online.
Henry Filloux-Bennett’s (Toast, What A Carve Up!) adaptation is brilliant. It feels new and up to date, right up to the second. It is completely relevant and challenges life in the online sphere very well. Tamara Harvey (Home I’m Darling, What A Carve Up!), artistic director of Theatr Clwyd, does a fantastic job at making the most of the opportunities of being online whilst it still feeling like theatre to a certain extent. It feels intimate whilst also feeling like something that wouldn’t be out of place on Netflix. Harry Smith’s score is atmospheric and helps build the tension. Holly Pigott’s design is spot on and works brilliantly for the piece, creating a familiar environment with familiar characters.
Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) plays the title character and is absolutely outstanding. His mental descent throughout the piece is entirely believable and feels natural. The descent is gradual and he performs it brilliantly. Alfred Enoch (What a Carve Up!, Crave) gives a great performance as Harry Wotton. He is a delight to watch and he has the right amount of charm and cockiness. The relationship between him as Whithead’s Dorian Gray is believable and lovely to watch play out. Russell Tovey (Angels in America, The History Boys) plays Basil Hallward. Although featuring for only a short amount of time throughout the production, he gives a harrowingly excellent performance. However his ending felt somewhat unsatisfactory but perhaps that was the point. People can disappear from the internet and never be heard about again.
Acting royalty Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) takes on the role of Lady Narborough. Her performance is outstanding. It is a joy to see her just act with very limited staging. Emma McDonald’s (The Sweet Science of Bruising, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) Sibyl Vane is great and her on screen relationship with Whitehead develops perfectly. It is heartwarming to see the development but equally heartbreaking when things don’t go to plan. She also gets the chance to showcase her gorgeous singing voice with an original song written by Jared Zeus. Completing the cast is Stephen Fry (QI, Black Adder Goes Fourth, It’s a Sin) who makes appearances as The Interviewer. He is very much underused for someone of his calibre and acting experience but his voice does work very well for the role.
This adaptation of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is challenging, relevant and intense. It is a must see during this period of lockdown and once again, all credit must go to the Barn Theatre and their co-producers for continuing to keep theatre alive while they can’t be open physically.
Tickets can be purchased here for just £12. When booking you choose a date that works for you and then you can watch the production as many times as you wish in the following 48 hours. All performances have closed captioning available, with audio description available from 23rd March. Be sure to get yourself booked in to see this treat of an online production!
Featured Image Credit: Benjamin Collins