This is superb entertainment from start to finish. Directors Olivia Krauze and Natalia May have produced something very special, all the more so for the limitations of the Annex stage/lecture theatre. The stage design and lighting are so atmospheric that even upon entrance you know you are entering a warped world: mirrors deliciously placed at angles give just a hint of what is behind, and then further engulf us with images for the turbulent second act.
The acting is pure class from everyone and not one of Wilde’s bon-mots is wasted as the well-disciplined, clear-dictioned cast dispense both sage and ludicrously cruel reflections on life. Alex Heyre as Lord Henry Wotton, a deliberately cold and calculating performance, is particularly on the mark and close to the character of Wilde himself in many respects as he drops ever more deeper suggestions on how to live life. As Basil (an excellent Josh Vaatstra) ponders, everyone who meets Lord Henry is never quite the same afterwards.
That includes the beautiful and handsome Dorian Gray, played with verve, charisma and sincerity by Jordan Gardner. To make such a selfish, nasty, vain character most appealing takes great skill, and his concentration and focus are perfect throughout.
The ladies are all victims to his charms as much as poor idolising Basil, yet Emma Paull manages to convey Sybil Vane so delicately and simply that you almost want to shout, ‘Don’t – no good will come of it!’ Her realisation that she has totally miscalculated her relationship with Gray as he pitilessly casts her aside is quite heart-breaking. The scene with her brother, James (an empathetic, innocent Jordan Andrews) was similarly performed, while William Shere was wonderfully enthusiastic as the theatre owner/player, especially amusing as Romeo to Paull’s Juliet.
I liked the way much of the personality of the piece is allowed to be conveyed outside the acting space in the foyer, Sophie Howard and Amber Courage being delightfully dotty as Lady and Duchess on stage as well as off. Kamara Katama wonderfully smokes a pipe and conveys much empathy on-stage in her denouncement of Gray at one of his opium sleaze dens.
Supplemented by excellent support from Hanna Parsons and Josh Morgan in multiple roles, this play is full of energy and conviction from all concerned. Composer Conor Macfarlane adds music that is both apt for the age yet so modern, complementing the action as it moves towards its macabre ending. The adding of pink lighting to the canvas is just enough to tease an audience with what is behind it, but never quite revealed.
This is such a must-see and comes highly recommended. It runs until 4 November at 7.30 each evening.