Painting a gothic picture at the Palace

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Southend Palace Theatre – Until Saturday.
Review by Paula Young

GOTHIC melodrama comes to Southend this week in the shape of Oscar Wilde’s classic.

Never an easy production to stage, not least because of its intensity, heady themes and difficulty of turning Wilde’s lavish verbosity from another era into today’s world, painting this picture is not without its challenges.

It’s fair to say this latest production on UK tour doesn’t tick all the boxes, but it’s a fair effort.

In a society obsessed with youth and beauty, Dorian Gray is given the chance to keep his looks forever. But at what cost?

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” is the question pondered in the storyline and the answer unfolds before us on a set defined by its simplicity that allows the cast to literally be centre stage.

Unrequited

The title role is taken by Gavin Fowler. RADA-trained he is at home in the classics. His face may not be as familiar as Jonathan Wrather – no doubt a draw for fans of Coronation Street and Emmerdale where he has left an indelible mark – but the duo entranced the first night audience with Wrather, as Lord Henry Wotton, leading Gray further and further astray.

At the heart of the story is a portrait of a youthful Dorian by Basil Hallward (splendidly portrayed by Daniel Goode) whose unrequited love for Dorian is another theme of the play.

Gray is mesmerised by the painting and sells his soul in order to stay young but in doing so, in time, realises that he will end up alone and an outcast and the more he deviates from his old life the more he sees the painting change.

It’s too late for him and he tries to destroy the portrait but this has fatal consequences.

The story is simply told but engages throughout – all credit to a talented cast of seven people.

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