"Wilde's classic given explicit treatment"
by Joe Crystal for remotegoat on 15/06/14

Tucked away off the main Kentish Town Road, among the huge Georgian terraces built for the well-to-do, lies the Lion & Unicorn Theatre, which for many years has hosted vibrant and groundbreaking fringe productions and this is no exception – as part of a Gothic Trilogy which writer Adam Dechanel and producer/director Simon James Collier collaborate on, “The Corruption of Dorian Gray”, is a powerful and faithful adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic book.

In this repressive Victorian era, where sexual freedom and libertinism was a well-oiled underground scene, the young, naïve and innocent Dorian Gray lands onto the London Society scene. He’s taken under the wing of Lord Henry Wotton who’s evidently so proud of his misdemeanours and indiscretions that he’s determined to introduce Gray into his seedy world. He’s adored by artist Basil Hallward, who awards him with a flattering portrait of which Gray wishes that he may stay forever young while the portrait ages…however, this becomes a curse which leads him further into mental anguish and criminality and ultimately his downfall – the bitter consequence of his hedonistic lifestyle.

What is immediately evident about this production is that it reeks of authenticity; from the exquisite costumes to the period props and the clipped accents of the aristocratic classes. However, if that much attention to detail has been paid to making the scenes credible, a pair of too-modern shoes or the ensemble drinking from wine glasses filled with what is clearly water, let alone a couple of the cast often not hitting their consonants, just break that spell enough to grate. Having said that, Rory Fairbairn’s striking lighting design perfectly complements Cory Roberts’ minimal but functional set and James Corner’s sound design is wholly encompassing and impressive.

Generally, the cast are a strong bunch; Michael Batten’s Dorian switches from boy to man with assurance, Loz Keystone is suitably nervous as the forlorn Basil and Will Harrison-Wallace grounded as the grooming Henry. The remaining cast cope with multiple characters well and there is some welcome light relief during a party scene but mostly the pace of the production borders on languid.

Although advertised at just 2 hours with interval and guidance for ages 13 and above, the production came in at 2 hours 45 minutes and an incongruous orgiastic scene, where multiple sexual acts were simulated whilst mostly clothed, were still graphic enough to be unsuitable for minors.

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