2nd Picture of Dorian Gray

Nine bubbly teenagers all dressed in white, a reverberating baritone saxophone and an accordion fill the stage around an empty white picture frame mounted on a white easel. They are not about to advertise laundry detergent; rather they are all in search of a theme for their artistic endeavours and the opportunity to create a work of art that will fill the frame, no doubt in a surrealist manner befitting the environment they have created, and prove worthy of the title of 2nd Picture of Dorian Gray.

The manic pursuit of questions and the joy of finding no conclusions

Fortunately for them, it emerges that one of their company might be the great-grandchild of the eponymous narcissist Dorian Gray. While his gives him a major claim to be the subject of the new painting this does not go undisputed. Indeed the bulk of this delightfully bonkers play revolves around rival claims to be the one whose image should fill the frame. There are fine performance all round from the company that consists of, Annabel Browning, Nathan Howe, Annie Hyde, Alex Morgan, Louisa Roberts, Owen Richards, Miranda Robertson, Kate Sale and Luc Schravesande. Tight direction by Tim Coker and fun choreography by Georgia Forsyth keeps the cast moving and they have mastered the art of pacey delivery that provides the sustained momentum of this joyous production.

The characters they create ensure a range of personlities that interact to provide lively and varied discourse; some serious, some ponderous, some witty, others undermining nuisances, but they all play and bounce off each other. Amongst the fun there are subtexts and issues of meaning in relationship to art and life itself, but don’t expect any profound answers. The entertainment lies in the manic pursuit of questions and the joy of finding no conclusions. It’s exactly what you would hope for from youthful actors exploring this genre.

2nd Picture of Dorian Gray is a high-spirited absurdist new play by Lithuanian writer and physical theatre performer Vyte Garriga co-commissioned by the Bloomsbury Festival, where it will receive its London Premiere in October 2023, and Macready Theatre Young Actors’ Company and is performed by their touring ensemble Square Pegs.

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Reviews by Richard Beck

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★★★★
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Performances

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The Blurb

Nine teenagers and one baritone saxophone invite you to a surreal cabaret of a play. Struggling to make sense of their lives and their place in an unfathomable universe, they find themselves in an hilariously pointless search for a theme for their own creative expression – only to discover that one of them may in fact be the actual great-grandchild of eponymous narcissist Dorian Gray. This life-imitating-art play about growing up asks lots of important questions about what it means to be human and, in fine absurdist fashion, offers absolutely no answers whatsoever.

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