OSCAR Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, it is often said, set the gold standard for chroniclers of decadence.
How true. It was condemned in the British press over 130 years ago as “vulgar”, “unclean” and “poisonous”, and remains the subject of controversy to this day.
In 2002, Will Self – an enfant terrible of the literary scene himself, albeit a century or so later – reworked Wilde’s only published novel, transposing its action from fin-de-siècle Victorian society to the London gay scene of the 80s.
It’s a period of time when, according to Self, “Britain was in the process of burning most of its remaining illusions”.
York-based theatre company Hinge’s production of Dorian, then, is an adaptation of an adaptation.
It takes the original characters from Wilde’s novel and replaces them with Self’s contemporary equivalents.
There’s slick-tongued, drug-addled aristocrat Henry Wotton; his protégé, “Baz” Hallward, a video artist who captures Dorian’s divine beauty in an installation entitled Cathode Narcissus; and, of course, the title character, a seducer par excellence, whose amoral pursuit of sensation leads him into acts of brutality and murder without his face bearing the slightest trace of his sins.
Horrific and hysterical by turns, Dorian is a bold, engaging piece of theatre that will have many drifting from the venue in a daze.
Superbly acted by a talented young cast (it would be a tad unfair to single out any one actor, as all are excellent), it does a fine job of re-creating Wilde’s debauched tale for a modern audience, adding Aids, 80s pop songs, slickly choreographed dance routines, and multimedia to the mix.
Be warned, though. Dorian won’t be to everyone’s taste.
It’s sexually explicit, violent and contains drug use – so if you’re prudish, homophobic, or easily offended, you’re advised to steer clear.
Until August 27