Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray
Effective storytelling makes for an adaptation with impact
This article is from 2008.
In the closing moments of Dorian Gray, a bright light shines out into the audience, temporarily blinding us. Something most people aren't used to, but those who spend their life in the spotlight are all too familiar with. It's this -- the trappings of celebrity - which form the focal point of Matthew Bourne's latest production. A pertinent commentary on how lives can change (and not always for the better) when fame and fortune comes calling.
To this end, Oscar Wilde's original novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is almost unrecognisable. The painting in the attic is replaced by a giant billboard emblazoned with Dorian's face and the words 'Immortality pour homme'. Lord Henry has swapped professions and genders, and is now powerful magazine editor, Lady H. While Dorian's fiancée, the tragic Sibyl Vane is now the equally tragic male ballet dancer, Cyril.
What Bourne has retained, however, is the novel's inherent decadence, hedonism, sexual promiscuity and shocking violence. Although with modern sensibilities being what they are, Bourne gets away with content that would have seen Wilde thrown into jail far quicker, and for far longer, than he actually was. A frenetic sex scene between Dorian and fashion photographer, Basil Hallward sets the tone early on. And by the end, few, if any, haven't felt the touch of the beautiful but increasingly troubled Dorian.
Wilde's novel shocked the Victorian public back in 1890, and Bourne had his work cut out trying to achieve the same impact today. But with the penultimate scene - featuring a bloody tableaux the TV series Dexter would be proud of - he just about does it.
Edinburgh Playhouse, 473 2000, until Sat 30 Aug.