The ballet of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) tells of an overly handsome young man who wishes his portrait could grow old while he retains his youth. He gets his wish: he embarks on a life of debauchery and (eventually) murder, retaining his looks while the portrait - now hidden in his attic - grows older and more raddled. In the end he stabs the portrait, and is found dead - old and decayed - with a knife in his heart; the portrait is young again.

The novel was made into a well-known film in 1945, as well as a number of others: and is now a ballet, Dorian Gray, by Matthew Bourne, premiered at Edinburgh in August 2008 and now running at Sadlers Wells Theatre. As with his The Car Man (which I reviewed in an earlier post), Bourne has updated the story, this time to the advertising and celebrity milieu of modern times. Dorian is a bisexual young man who is chosen as the advertising face for a men's perfume, becomes the latest celebrity, descends into debauchery and in the end embarks on a killing spree.

There is no actual portrait as in the original, though his multiple images become distorted and vandalised: a doppelgänger (a ghostly twin) appears and haunts him - his evil self. In the end he kills the doppelgänger, dying himself: the press are let in to photograph this last celebrity image.

So far so good, and in a way a valid commentary on the tiresome celebrity culture we are all too familiar with: but let down by unimaginative choreography - though there are occasional good moments, and some wit, much of it is repetitive posturing. And of course showing decadence and orgies is always dangerously risible (think Eyes Wide Shut).

Though I suppose it's suitable to the subject in its vapidity, the score - mostly electronic - is also repetitive, empty and, as so often, far too loud (some of it played close to the hearing-damage level - don't theatres ever learn?).

A pity: a good idea, strikingly staged and well danced, particularly by Richard Winsor as Dorian and Michela Meazza as the female advertising agency head (something of a devil in Pravda) but not a patch on The Car Man.

Posted: Wed - September 3, 2008 at 10:03 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM