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A CurtainUp London Review
Set in a society which worships youth and beauty, the self obsession and hedonism are fitting. The artist Basil Hallward (Aaron Sillis) becomes a fashion photographer and Dorian Gray (Richard Winsor) is the face of a new fragrance for men on advertising hoardings everywhere. Dorian's older mentor Lord Henry Wootton from the novel becomes Lady H (Michela Meazza), "a powerful, iconic figure in art fashion circles who takes Dorian under her wing and introduces him to a world that he is eager to explore." Wilde's actress Sibyl Vane becomes a male ballet dancer at Covent Garden, Cyril Vane (Christopher Marney). Bourne has made this last gender swap because in the novel the heterosexual love affair between Dorian and Sibyl struck an odd note in a book that is about homo-eroticism.
The exciting and witty production opens in a photographer's studio with edgy electronic music to the poses struck, shots taken of models in black, the men topless, the women in trousers and bras. The photographer Basil Hallward energetically cavorts and seduces to get the images he envisages. The black and white design is arrestingly visual, aesthetic and dramatic. The beautiful photographs Basil has taken are shown in the dominant monochrome. The dancers square their thumbs as if framing a picture or circle thumb and forefinger like a lens to envisage what the finished photograph will look like as they peer through the apertures.
Into this environment comes a waiter dressed in white. He looks unspoilt and , innocent and as the last to leave, alone with the photographer, he gets noticed. Together Dorian and Basil explore their sexuality in a heightened expression of dance and passion and sex. They strip down to their designer underwear and explore each other's bodies in imaginative, choreographed invention.
Dorian's career is launched but the powerful Lady H wants sexual favours in return for her patronage. He complies, but we can see from his uncomfortable expression that thiscareer advancement isnot born of passion. We see the Science of Beauty as the company in white coats and blue gloves perfect the body beautiful. Similarly Dorian is suited in fashion, stands on a podium and the fragrance advertising campaign for Immortal hits the billboards.
A celebrity guest appearance on a television late night chat show is danced as a parody. Dorian beds Cyril Vane, almost a caricature of a ballet dancer in a ridiculous white cloak, whom he sees dance an overly ornate Romeo. Bourne likes an occasional dig at the ballet professionals! Dorian's promiscuous descent see him taking cocaine and the mood of the piece becomes increasingly dark. Hanging off the wall is a doppelganger, a twin who dances Dorian's corrupted soul, to close the first act.
The second act opens with a light hearted "many in a bed" scene but the story becomes more sinister as the gap widens between Dorian's angelic appearance and his evil life. In the second act, there is a scene set in a club behind rust covered doors where a disco ball shaped like a skull places ovals of mirrored light on the stage. Dorian looks at his reflection in cracked mirrors, is stalked by his doppelganger and black tears fall from his eyes in a portrait.
Dorian murders Basil in a bath. Finally Lady H tries to protect her investment but the paparazzi are on to the celebrity downfall.
Paule Constable's lighting gives us the colour of the show— the television appearance in fuschia pink, the scientists in green. Lez Brotherston's designs are startling black and white, providing style and elegance. Terry Davies' music is contemporary with rock influences to back up the spectacular dance. The emotion of Wilde's story of the unspoken love between men finds its expression in this impressive, interpretative dance production.
Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray is a triumph!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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