Getting older is inevitable. While plastic surgeons and Hollywood celebrities have been trying to reverse the effects of time on the body for years, the aging process is something that effects everyone. Well, almost everyone. Everyone but two. Who are these two people you ask? Peter Pan and Dorian Gray. Both fictional. The aging process is a natural part of the human experience, anything to the contrary is deemed unnatural. It was with this in mind that Oscar Wilde set to work writing his dark masterpiece, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Wilde’s only grandson Merlin Holland and John O’Connor, of European Arts Company, were so taken by Wilde’s aesthetic tale of living a double life and the illusions of beauty that they have newly adapted Wilde’s work into a play, now showing at Trafalgar Studios. This new Dorain Gray was derived from Wilde’s original manuscript, reinstating the homoerotic themes that originally resulted in public outcry, after the novels first publication. Being the Wilde enthusiast I am, I was very eager to see how Holland and O’Connor adapted Wilde’s novel and jumped at the chance to review.

The small intimate space at Trafalgar Studios was the perfect sized venue for this Dorian Gray and its four actors. Dorian’s downfall from young master to monster was very effetely portrayed by Guy Warren-Thomas. His moments of madness and knowing smirks to the audience provided the varied, tender and supernatural element the plot requires. Helen Keeley, Rupert Mason and John Forick’s wonderful versatility provided all the other characters vital to Dorain Gray. From the Dutchess of Hatley to Sybil Vane, each character was physically, vocally and emotionally portrayed to perfection resulting in an adaption that was equal parts scandalous, sensuous and thrilling.

Explained in the programme, Holland and O’Connor adapted this Dorian Gray to reinstate the story as Wilde originally intended but couldn’t publish due to it’s homoerotic overtones. In fact, Wilde’s original Lippencott Magazine publication of Gray was heavily edited to ensure nothing was left that ‘an innocent woman would take an exception to’, with Wilde only seeing these edits upon receiving his own copy of the magazine. For me, this adaption of Dorian Gray was a fairly faithful adaption and I was hard pressed to find any added sexuality in a story that was originally so in the first place. Society has changed so much that the added confessions of homoerotic thoughts and relationships, seemed ineffective. While this adaption better represents Wilde’s original vision, I found myself wishing that Holland and O’Connor went further with their adaption. Exploring Dorian’s encounters and crimes more deeply, asking the audience to re-think beauty and reconsider the well-known story and what they believe represents sin.

Eternal youth has only been granted to two fictional characters, both have been adapted into many plays, musicals and films. European Arts Company wonderfully achieved a faithful adaption with this, The Picture Of Dorain Gray. The audience knew where they were in each scene and the actors worked hard to make their world believable, characters true and the gritty supernatural story of Gray come to life.

Reviewed by Stuart James
Photo: Emily Hyland

The Picture of Dorian Gray is playing at Trafalgar Studios until 11 February 2016. Book tickets here