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Theatre review - The Picture of Dorian Gray, Theatre by the Lake

PUBLISHED: 16:28 10 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:33 10 April 2019

Daniel Goode (Basil), Jonathan Wrather (Lord Henry) and Gavin Fowler (Dorian Gray). Photography by Craig Sugden.

Daniel Goode (Basil), Jonathan Wrather (Lord Henry) and Gavin Fowler (Dorian Gray). Photography by Craig Sugden.

CRAIG SUGDEN

Something is decaying badly at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake (TBTL) and it is sinfully good.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Company). Photography by Craig Sugden.The Picture of Dorian Gray (Company). Photography by Craig Sugden.

A co-production by Titled Wig Productions, Malvern Theatres and Churchill Theatre, Bromley, this new telling of Oscar Wilde’s classic gothic thriller is a wonderful parable of the corruption of youth and the dangers of amoral living.

The tale tells of a young Dorian Gray (Gavin Fowler), seduced by the philosophy of the older, decadent Lord Henry Wotton ( ITV’s Emmerdale star, Jonathan Wrather), who bemoans the fact that he will grow old and his beauty will fade while the painting will live forever young. If only, he cries, it could be the other way around. Be careful what you wish for, they say, and Dorian finds this out to his cost - as do all those around him.

Wilde knew what it was to have moral views which ran counter to society’s norms and this book, written in 1890, would actually damn him when it came to his trial for homosexuality five years later. A story containing the essence of the ‘fin de siecle’ movement which was cynical of civilisation, believing it lead only to decadence, Dorian Gray is full of angst about who he is and of the meaning of beauty and truth. Both, he finds, are as fragile as moral virtue and innocence prove to be. But this angst makes it a story for our turbulent times where even our nation doesn’t know what it wants to be right now and is torn between two different paths - let alone as a mirror to our individual selves. Although not necessarily deliberate, the picture Dorian Gray holds up to gaze upon also allows his gaze to fall on us, the audience, as if to say: ‘You too are Dorian.’

Although the production team made the decision not to modernise the play, there are metaphors abounding; from the decaying walls to the anachronisms of some clothes (and watch the subtle use of flowers too). This might be set in a certain time in the past but it could be a modern-day fable. Everything decays, if not attended to, and the audience are left to make their own judgements about who is guilty or where fault lies.

Jonathan Wrather (Lord Henry). Photography by Craig Sugden.Jonathan Wrather (Lord Henry). Photography by Craig Sugden.

A strong cast, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is worth visiting TBTL to see or catch it on tour around the country. Both Wrather and Fowler in lead roles are superb, of course, but watch out for Phoebe Pryce too; her seductive performance ensures at least some female characters have power - and perhaps wield it better too.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is showing at Theatre by the Lake’s Main House until 13 April. To find out more call the Box Office on 017687 74411 or visit www.theatrebythelake.com.

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