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  • Writer's pictureFiona Prior

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Sydney Theatre Company)

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Director: Kip Williams

Based on the novel by Oscar Wilde

The social commentary underpinning Oscar Wilde’s ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’ is probably as appropriate to our culture as it has ever been in history with our Selfies, Botox, Liposuction and all.

The Picture of Dorian Gray’ – as I am sure everyone knows – is the Faustian tragedy of a young man who sells his soul for the eternal beauty of youth, and by so abandoning himself to vanity, he also succumbs to every other corrupting excess. As his behaviour becomes more monstrous, a portrait that has been hidden in his attic ages horrifically, while our anti-hero Dorian Gray always presents as an angel, his appearance arrested in the innocence of youth.

Eryn Jean Norvill owns this role and with the direction of Kip Williams and a splendid use of multimedia we feel the timelessness of Oscar Wilde’s only novel. We are immersed in a collage of ‘selfies’ of this eternally beautiful creature … in the courts of Louis XIV, with an Elvis quiff, making a peace sign – while the narrative sticks quite literally to Wilde’s original tale.

I have always wondered what must have been going on in Wilde’s head when he originally wrote ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. As we all know, Wilde was the darling of late-Victorian London until he was caught up in scandal involving the Marquess of Queensberry’s son ‘Bosie’. This scandal led to Wilde’s eventual conviction and he served time for ‘sodomy and gross indecency’. On release from prison, he was ostracised from polite (and hypocritical) society and allowed to die a pauper. When viewed through the filter of Wilde’s life story, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ takes on a whole new level of pathos.

But I stray. Go see Sydney Theatre’s ‘The Portrait of Dorian Gray’. It is a wonderful tribute to the work of a man who was way ahead of his time.

Roslyn Packer Theatre

until 09 January 2021

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is a Gothic and philosophical novel by Oscar Wilde, first published complete in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. Fearing the story was indecent, prior to publication the magazine's editor deleted roughly five hundred words without Wilde's knowledge. Despite that censorship, The Picture of Dorian Gray offended the moral sensibilities of British book reviewers, some of whom said that Oscar Wilde merited prosecution for violating the laws guarding public morality. In response, Wilde aggressively defended his novel and art in correspondence with the British press, although he personally made excisions of some of the most controversial material when revising and lengthening the story for book publication the following year.

(*And don’t forget to make your contribution to Wikipedia. It may not be the most academically robust vessel for knowledge storage but it has definitely become one of the most handy and interesting sites in our time and is a wondrous experiment in open collaboration.

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