Friday, 23 October 2009

Dorian Gray - Lowry Theatre, Salford

Dorian Gray
Devisor/Director: Matthew Bourne
Composer: Terry Davies
Reviewer: Laura Asbury

Sexy, stylish and elegantly conceived, Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray is a modern day exploration of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, first published in 1890. Bourne’s Twenty First Century injection into this gothic tale cleverly readdresses themes of alienation, beauty and sexual repression by exposing the sinister superficiality of the idealised image of the modern celebrity and the futility of hedonism.

Although this production has faced tough criticism in the past for its overt homoeroticism and in-your-face references to sex (in comparison to the hidden subtleties of Wilde’s poeticism), Bourne is basking in his choreographic comfort zone here and the delightfully conceptual transgression from the novel deserves much critical acclaim. Bourne’s Dorian becomes the anti-hero: avariciously hungry for fame, dangerous adventure and glamorous reputation, whilst slowly, with the devious influences of Lady H (Lord Henry in the novel) and Basil Hallward (painter in the novel, now fashion photographer), sinks into a life of debauchery with fatal consequences.

Basil, played magnificently by Jason Piper as the sexually arrogant and sleazy photographer, creates the striking image that lingers around the memory of this work: a poster image promoting the young, attractively masculine Dorian for a male perfume, Immortal pour Homme. This is effectively followed by a celebrity appearance for Dorian: a send up of the chat show by Jonathon Ross (including the tacky flamboyancy of the four puffs and a piano) and is an ingenious spectacle of Bourne’s inventive skill and imagination. Throughout the production, the poster begins to physically distort as the relationship between Dorian, his lover Cyril Vane, Basil and Lady H begin to reveal the sinister undercurrents of strange rumors, curious affairs and whispered scandals.

Intimate moments of sculptural movement between Dorian and Basil echo images of contact improvisation; a careful investigation and unraveling of their naked flesh that mold, twist and violently wrap around each other in deep affection and sexual tension. Bourne’s use of quirky gesture, colourful imagery and immaculate execution of imagination contrasts these erotically hypnotic sections with high-energy ensemble sections in unison. Beautifully embodied by Richard Winsor as Dorian, this production will appeal to both lovers of the novel and theatre enthusiasts with its ability to capture varying essences of our modern world.

Runs until Sat 24 Oct
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