The Picture of Dorian Gray at The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
Daniel-Goode (Basil) Jonathan Wrather (Lord-Henry) and Gavin Fowler (Dorian Gray)

In Oscar Wilde’s take of the classic Faust story, we have ‘The Picture
of Dorian Gray’; a thriller that caused a scandal when it was first
published due to the homosexual undertones that run through the play. In
this new production by Tilted Wig Productions, there was plenty of drama
which sadly leaned too much to the side of overacting. Wilde may have rejected naturalism as Director Sean Aydon points out in his notes but the
characters are still 3 dimensional beings. The play is much more than
supernatural Victorian melodrama and sadly I felt there was depth
lacking in the cast, except Lady Victoria Wotton played by Phoebe Pryce
who was the most believable with her refined speech, grace and dry wit
which received the most audience response that evening.

There were small spattering of laughs in the audience in response to
witty lines, but ultimately they didn’t land as well as they had the
potential to due to the pace. Jonathan Wrather as Lord Henry Wotton, the
man who leads Dorian Gray astray into a life of debauchery oozed charm
very well but his speech felt far too rushed at times. It is always
going to be difficult to chart an 18 year journey of aging in 2 and half
hours, Wrather visibly and vocally managed to make this change well as
Lord Henry Wotton. This is also where Gavin Fowler’s strength was as
Dorian Gray in that he did successfully transition from boyish innocence
to dark charms; but had he gone deeper into the role to flesh out those
different states, it might have had a stronger impact on making his
character more believable.

The set and props were beautifully designed and placed, the Victorian colour palette of earthy browns and turquoise on decaying wallpaper was very striking.  It was a static set which I understand was intentional to rely on lighting changes in indicating different places; this worked for the club scene however the changes were too subtle elsewhere to be as effective. The decision to have the portrait as something symbolic like a mirror by using a framed clear glass Perspex which had shattered pieces by the end to represent Dorian’s aging was an interesting choice; however it felt a bit too simple. Had the lighting choices been bolder in that regard or more effects added to the glass itself, it might have elevated the impact as it had potential to be a cleverly important symbol of being a mirror into Dorian’s soul.

Costumes for Dorian, Lord Henry and Lady Wotton in particular were
beautifully made and gave the sense of timelessness they were aiming for in the play. There was a lovely fusion of Victorian and contemporary vintage styles that wouldn’t be out of place on an East London hipster millennial.

From its beautifully designed programme to striking set and costumes by
Sarah Beaton, there is a lot of potential for this production to be a
great one; it sadly fell short at times but I really do wish them well.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is on at The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until the 6th April.

Box Office : 01473 295900

The tour continues :

Mon 8 - 13 April                 Theatre by the Lake, Keswick

Mon 22 - 27 April               Richmond Theatre

Mon 29 April - 4 May        Capitol Theatre, Horsham

Tues 7 - 11 May                 Malvern Theatres

Tues 14 - 18 May               Crewe Lyceum