Damned Beautiful

This article is from 2008.

Damned Beautiful

Kelly Apter finds another Dorian Gray show kicking about in the form of Helix Dance’s Fringe adaptation.

Matthew Bourne isn’t alone in finding Oscar Wilde’s 19th century novel inspirational. Cambridge-based company Helix Dance also saw potential for a dance theatre adaptation and have condensed the work into male duet, Damned Beautiful. How does it feel not to be the only Dorian in town this August? ‘At first my heart sank, because Bourne’s a real behemoth of an organisation and has such a strong name,’ admits Isobel Cohen, artistic director of Helix Dance. ‘But although we’re both in dance theatre, we make very different work. And I think that’s what’s interesting about having the Fringe and International Festival running at the same time: you can see two companies bringing the same sort of work. But no two pieces of art are ever the same.’

Like Bourne, Cohen saw parallels between Dorian’s desire for eternal youth and today’s fame-obsessed world. Not all of which could easily be conveyed through dance, however. ‘The novel is incredibly witty and dark,’ says Cohen. ‘And although the macabre elements are easily accessed through physicality, you can’t always capture the sharpness of the dialogue. So we’ve used text for that, some of which is lifted from the novel and some I’ve adapted to tie in with the 21st century and our relationship with beauty and youth.’

Staging a similar show to the world’s most famous choreographer has its upside of course, and flyering Damned Beautiful outside Bourne’s theatre could prove fruitful for Helix. ‘My dancers are incredibly talented, so I feel we’re bringing a show that stands up in its own right, even against the backdrop of Matthew’s work.’

Damned Beautiful, Pleasance Dome, Bristo Square, 0131 556 6550, 2-24 Aug (not 5,12,19), 2.40pm, £7 (£6). Previews 30 July-1 Aug, £5.

Damned Beautiful

  • 2 stars

Yet another dance version of 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' on the Fringe this year. Lovely, dreamy choreography, beautifully portrayed... and then completely ruined by an awful, invasive industrial soundtrack that doesn't let up for the whole show. 'Part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe'

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