Based on the novel by: Oscar Wilde
Adapter: Henry Filloux-Bennett
Director: Tamara Harvey
This new digital transformation springboards the classic Oscar Wilde novel into the 21st century by exploring the world of social media, influence and the effects they have on mental health
Henry Filloux-Bennett takes the original book and reconceives it almost like a Panorama special, trying to uncover what truly happened between a group of four people all connected to Dorien Grey (Fionn Whitehead).
Focusing the plot are two separate interviews, one with Harry Wotton (Alfred Enoch), a close friend of Dorian’s, as well as a separate one with Lady Narborough (Joanna Lumley), who has looked after Dorian as he grew up.
Joanna Lumley’s sincere performance reflects the desire Lady Narborough has to understand and prevent the cause of Dorian’s demise happening again, while through Enoch’s performance you understand how influential he was over Dorien. At the same time, questioning his motives and fasination he had for keeping Dorian to himself.
Whitehead uses mainly upper body language to develop Dorian, from a shy, likeable and geeky guy that wants to make something of himself. To someone that after succumbing to the temptation to be forever popular changes as he becomes engrossed with this new found fame. It’s harrowing to see the change and it’s only really in closing moments do you fully understand the monster he became.
Rather than art in its physical form, Dorian’s beauty is enshrined using a filter created by Basil, (Russell Tovey), a talented tech developer with good intentions to show his affection for Dorian by gifting him a tool to make himself forever beautiful. Tovey’s scenes with Whitehead are sweet moments, which makes the final scenes together as Basil tries to rescue Dorian of what he becomes all the more tragic.
Emma McDonald’s performance is a defining moment in the drama. A victim of a viral trolling attack and no support from Dorian, McDonald creates an unsettling direct address that creates a huge step change in the dynamic and pace of the piece.
The decision to set this adaptation in the world of influencers, social media and trolls give a whole new life to this classic book. While very much keeping faithful to the original intentions by Wilde to discuss our obsession with beauty, it also opens a new chapter on the current crisis that lays in front of us right now where people are viewing their life against those of carefully edited personas that are displayed on social media platforms.
This punchy, compelling drama is striking to watch and eerily easy to relate to, this courageous production is a impressive example of what can be achieved when theatre meets film. With a top bill line up, captivating performances, careful direction and slick editing, this is an edgy, intense drama that speaks to us all.
*A complimentary ticket was given in exchange for this review. This value for money rating is based on the ticket price value of £12 which gives you unlimited for 48 hours. Click here for more information on The Value For Money Rating