Review: European Arts Company’s production of The Picture of Dorian Gray hits Derbyshire

The Picture of Dorian Gray, presented by European Arts Company
The Picture of Dorian Gray, presented by European Arts Company

When it was first published, The Picture of Dorian Gray caused outrage with its homosexual undercurrents which contributed to the jailing of its playwright Oscar Wilde.

Nowadays society is more broad-minded and curious to find out which caused such a scandal 125 years ago.

Wilde’s grandson Merlin Holland has collaborated with John O’Connor in a stage adaptation of the tale of a handsome playboy and two men who vie for his attention and affection. The play includes many of the story’s original elements which Wilde later dropped to appease the public’s anger.

Brought to life by European Arts Company on a 56-date tour which includes Buxton Opera House on May 24, the play was presented in Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre last night (Monday, April 27).

Downton Abbey actor Guy Warren-Thomas leads the troupe as the narcissistic and cold-hearted youth Dorian Gray who makes a Faustian pact that his portrait will age as he remains forever young. Gwynfor Jones and Rupert Mason are cast as the pals courting Dorian’s attention, the former playing Lord Henry Wotton, master of the patter, and the latter in the role of Basil Hallward, master of the paintbrush. Helen Keeley plays the unfortunate actress Sibyl Vane who falls under Dorian’s spell and takes her own life when he cruelly rejects her.

All three supporting actors bring elements of humour to the show with a multitude of characters, including the men dressing up as women, and accents from home and abroad.

The staging is simple with wooden frames symbolising large paintings and a doorway while dramatic music accompanies Dorian’s appearance in the portrait.

The Picture of Dorian Gray may no longer shock an audience but it is still a powerful and soul-searching piece of art.