A man who is scared of women, a man in a long-term relationship, and a man who has seven women in one week - in Who’s Dorian Gray, we are introduced to all these characters. The three clashing personalities are used to delve into the types of intimacy of many different relationships as the play questions whether being in a steady relationship actually makes people happy, or whether it is just a convenient front we use when we would secretly rather live the lothario dream.
Even more compelling than the sexual relationships were the relationships between the three main actors. Many of us will have experienced the clash of personalities that comes from sharing a flat with other people and, though the contrasts between the characters felt somewhat exaggerated, there was nothing contrived about the portrayal of the anger and intensity within those interactions.
There were moments when it seemed possible that the three main characters could easily have represented different facets of one character. However, this makes the acting sound one-dimensional when it was far from it. The uniformly excellent cast surprised with the range and intensity of emotions and subtleties displayed on stage. The venue size combined with the powerful performances meant that there were moments when the energy between characters was palpable. Particular note must go to James Hartman whose cold detachment from events gave me goose bumps on several occasions.
Interestingly, at the moments when both the actors and plot reach their greatest intensity, the play is let down by the script, as it is then that the language becomes clumsy and overwritten. This felt odd as, throughout the rest of the play, the dialogue was realistic and believable. Even if this change in writing style is a deliberate choice in order to enhance moments of extreme potency, the technique is unsuccessful in that it simply jars with the otherwise consistent script.
The show’s publicity warns that the performance contains nudity. Now, there is always some trepidation when shows advertise this, as nudity is often simply used to shock audiences. However, in this case the use of nudity was definitely warranted. Throughout the play there is an emphasis on characters getting dressed - for work, after sex - suggesting that each time they do so they are putting on a costume or a mask that they presented to the world. So the moment when a character strips off in the middle of a heated argument is extremely powerful, showing that everything hidden within the relationship, everything artificial, is now revealed. Indeed, the audience leaves the show with the feeling that they have just had a clear glimpse into the souls of these characters. And perhaps, as a result, they can look at themselves with a greater degree of honesty.