Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray
Thoroughly modern Oscar
This article is from 2008.
Although no one would bat an eyelid today, Oscar Wilde’s gothic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray caused shock and outrage when it was published in 1890. The tale of an impressionable young man who becomes obsessed with his own image, had a little too much homoeroticism and hedonism for delicate Victorian tastes. Since then, various stage, TV and film versions have brought the book to life, but nobody has taken Wilde’s original intent and given it a modern twist – until now. Created by Matthew Bourne, Dorian Gray brings the tale bang up to date.
‘There’s no strong recent version that I’m aware of,’ says Bourne. ‘So I felt I could take the themes and make them relevant to modern life. The wanting to stay young, the corruption, the power of youth and all that goes with it.’
Despite having it on his ‘list of things to do’ for years, Bourne had shied away from adapting Dorian due to its unsympathetic characters and vague misogyny. But a few switches in gender solved that. Lord Henry, the man who leads Dorian astray, is now a female magazine editor while actress, Cybil Vane has transformed into male ballet dancer, Cyril.
‘It’s a contemporary telling of the story,’ says Bourne. ‘All the sets are in a photographer’s studio, so it’s a photograph, rather than a painting, that changes. Because that’s how somebody becomes an iconic image today – through photos and advertising.’
King’s Theatre, 22–30 Aug (not 25), 8pm (2.30pm Sat 23 & 30 Aug), £10–£30.