The Picture of Dorian Gray

It’s always difficult to tell a story that audiences are familiar with and manage to find a new way to engage them in it, but in Box Tale Soup’s new adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, it is safe to say that new ground is thoroughly covered. Combining theatre, dance and puppetry, this production left me asking new questions about a tale I thought I knew inside out.

Innovative storytelling techniques are there in abundance

A clever set and beautiful soundscape kept me entranced from the onset of this production. Dorian Gray is not only a morality tale on the dangers of vanity, but also an important piece of gay literature. For this reason I was initially thrown by the casting of a female Dorian, but as the play went on I realised that this was a clever move in illustrating one of the play’s central messages – the relationship between reality and performativity. As the naïve Dorian, Laura Darrall shone on stage and made the character likeable and relatable even as he devolved through the tragic denouement.

But it was Mark Collier and Noel Byrne who stole the show, performing not only as Sir Henry and Basil but also as a raft of other characters through utilisation of beautiful paper puppets. The heightened reality created by the characterisation of the puppets added to this exploration of performativity. The already complex gender roles being played with by Darrall’s casting were further complicated when Collier took on the role of Dorian’s love interest actress Sybil Vane who, we see perform as Much Ado About Nothing’sBeatrice, who within that play disguises herself as a boy. I admit thinking about this and what it says about the nature of gender made my head hurt – as, I suspect, was the intention.

Where the show fell down, perhaps ironically, were in the moments where it tried to be too faithful to the book. Long excerpts of the show did not feature the genre-bending music, choreography or use of puppets that made it what it was, and at times these drawn-out sections of dialogue, lifted almost directly from the source material, seemed unnecessarily thorough. Why did we need to have a long static discussion about Dorian’s naivety and blind following of Sir Henry when this was far better exemplified through the play’s different effects? It felt a little like overcompensation – an issue of the adaptation and not of the performance.

Despite this, if you are looking to see an original take on a tale you thought you knew, this is a good choice. Don’t go expecting a particularly special take on the story itself, but innovative storytelling techniques are there in abundance.

Reviews by Elliot Douglas

SpaceTriplex

X The Musical

★★★
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

2016 the Musical

★★
theSpace on North Bridge

Woolf

★★★★
theSpace on Niddry St

The Dolls of New Albion

★★
Assembly Rooms

Gypsy Queen

★★★★★
C venues – C royale

Submission

★★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world and lose their own soul? Dorian Gray, young and beautiful, sinks deep into a frivolous lifestyle of selfish abandon, seemingly unchanged by corruption and untouched by age. But, behind a locked door, beneath a heavy curtain, Dorian's portrait tells a different story... Oscar Wilde's classic novel is brought to life in a new adaptation by award-winning Box Tale Soup, featuring puppetry and a powerful original score. ‘They are wonderful’ (Times). Commissioned by the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA.

Most Popular See More

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Blithe Spirit

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets