In a 1990 interview on Japanese television, Berkoff said, “I believe that you don’t need anything more than just utter simplicity and that everything in my art must be created from the body onwards. The body and the voice.” The Egg Theatre Company has certainly understood this and demonstrates an impressive understanding of Berkoff’s style in its adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s only novel,
Dorian’s plain grey suit, with its silken sheen, glistens in the white lights and reflects upwards to give the angular features of his face an almost saintly glow that Wilde would have deemed a fitting tribute to his youthful, narcissistic character.
Key elements are present from the outset. A functional white sheet that is fully incorporated into the action later on as a canvas initially forms a plain backdrop for the scenes. Black and white dominates the costumes, the make-up and the masks of the ensemble which, combined with chorus work, suggests elements of both Greek and Japanese theatre. Dorian’s plain grey suit, with its silken sheen, glistens in the white lights and reflects upwards to give the angular features of his face an almost saintly glow that Wilde would have deemed a fitting tribute to his youthful, narcissistic character. He stands out beautifully and dominates this production with his presence.
Any saintly qualities he might have are a facade, however: his soul has been sold to the devil. The powers of darkness, in grim raven-like masks, seduce him into debauchery and lure him into the opium dens gathered around him, presented with some well-devised pieces of physical theatre. With clear voices they engage him in the dialogue of his demise and taunt him with choral chants.
With a running time of only forty minutes the play has well sustained, concentrated action. The many elements are well blended and the scenes flow easily. The young actors demonstrate their skills and techniques admirably, but there is the feeling that the piece as whole is something of an academic exercise in the application of Berkoff’s style. It is ultimately more rewarding for them than the audience, albeit well done. They are a talented group that should explore other forms now that they have this out their system.