Victorian Vices – The Picture of Dorian Gray

The moment you step into this showroom, I can guarantee you’ll wish you had worn your suit or gown. Leave your 21st century self at the threshold as lords and ladies abound to greet you into Victorian England. Another Soup’s production of Victorian Vices – The Picture of Dorian Gray plunges the audience into the exquisite decadence of the time, as told by Oscar Wilde. In this performance, you yourself will be able to take a stroll through the streets of Piccadilly, so to speak. Another Soup have embraced the original and ambitious challenge of putting on a promenade spectacle, which has you standing and free to wander about the room while the cast of twelve actors moves between and around you.

Dave Spencer’s adaptation of Wilde’s novel for the stage is expertly done.

There’s never a dull moment as the action of the The Picture of Dorian Gray unfolds in a brilliant medley of theatrics, drama and dance. The young and impressionable Dorian Gray is tempted by vice when adoring friend Basil Hallward paints his portrait, infecting him with a poisonous vanity and egotism as a result. Taken under the wing of Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian proceeds to succumb to the darkest of temptations. The lead roles of the play are convincing and engaging; the rosy-cheeked, effeminate Mike Yates is perfectly cast in the role of Dorian, as is Jonathan R. Parsonage in the role of the charismatic and manipulative Lord Henry.

Another Soup are clearly aware of the controversies that have arisen from Wilde’s text over the years, and test their modern audience by putting forward the aspects for which The Picture of Dorian Gray was partly censored; the type of morals and lifestyle choices that had Wilde accused of writing "unclean," "poisonous" prose, "heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction”. The homoerotic tensions of the novel are made explicit and poignant; the decadent underworld of a society that prided itself on propriety uncovered. The supremacy of art is celebrated, the rewards and downfalls of self-indulgence displayed. Another Soup deftly question the value of morality in a society where beauty, extravagance and excess are the height of aspiration.

Dave Spencer’s adaptation of Wilde’s novel for the stage is expertly done. Although in brief moments the dialogue feels slightly superficial, overall he succeeds in translating Wilde’s written dialogue and philosophies on the supremacy of art for the stage with accuracy and clarity.

The six-piece band in the room adds considerable charm to the performance, with brothel scenes enhanced and made cabaret-like to the sounds of an accordion. Musical director Jo Turner has succeeded in writing a soundtrack to the action which heightens its impact: members of the cast (often standing right beside you) explode into perfect harmony at regular intervals of the show creating a genuinely palpable intensity.

The only drawback to the performance is that it requires the audience to stand for the hour and forty minutes of its duration. Although this is central to the power of promenade theatre, ironically it can also be a drawback for those unwilling to stand for such a long period of time. A few seats are provided, should you prefer to sit down, so don’t let this discourage you from attending. If you enjoy the performance, be sure to catch Another Soup’s Victorian Vices – Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls, also playing at theSpace on Niddry St. this month. 

Reviews by Maria Hagan

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

London, 1859. The wealthy young man, Dorian Gray, arrives in the piteous promenades of Piccadilly and begins to model for artist Basil Hallward. He meets the incorrigible Lord Henry Wotton and makes a life changing decision, which amazes and appals friends and foes alike. He indulges in the variously sordid Victorian vices of the times, tainting his acquaintances and using his wondrous looks to turn all those he comes into contact with away from the light. Original, immersive promenade musical. **** for A Hundred Minus One Day and Sleeping Beauty (BroadwayBaby.com).

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