Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray on stage

This BBC video is called The Picture of Dorian Gray 1976 – Oscar Wilde.

It says about itself:

In Victorian England, handsome Dorian Gray (Peter Firth) makes a Faustian deal that his portrait painted by Basil Hallward (Jeremy Brett) will age while he remains young.

Irish socialist author Oscar Wilde is well known for having been cruelly punished for being gay and for his plays.

On 6 November 2018, I went to see the play Dorian, based on Oscar Wilde, in Leiden, the Netherlands. Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray not as a play, but as a novel.

This Dutch 2018 trailer video of this play, by the Noord Nederlands Toneel (NNT) says about itself (translated):

Some 125 years after the publication of Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, our obsession with youthfulness and the feeling that you must have taken everything out of your life have only increased.

With these questions as a starting point, Javier Barcala wrote a stage adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s famous novel for the Noord Nederlands Toneel. Barcala places Dorian in the background of the contemporary art market, a familiar world for guest director Christophe Coppens.

The Belgian multitalent Coppens was trained as a theater maker, but broke through as a designer and visual artist. Previously, pop stars such as Rihanna, Grace Jones, Scissor Sisters and especially Róisín Murphy walked in his creations. And now NNT actress Bien de Moor shines in his artworks.

This 2018 NNT video says about itself (translated):

Some 125 years after the publication of Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, our obsession with youthfulness and the feeling that you must have taken everything out of your life have only increased. But do we not lose sight of ourselves in the desire for the new, the beautiful and the special? And if we are busy all the time with our personal development, what does that mean for our relationship with others?

Leading actor Bram van der Heijden and artistic director of the NNT Guy Weizman tell us what the performance is about for them.

This in another 2018 NNT teaser video about the play.

This October 2018 video is an interview with Akim Moiseenkov, who composed music for the NNT play.

More about the play is here.

In Wilde’s novel, the young man Dorian Gray indulges in beauty and individualistic pleasure-seeking in such an extreme way that he causes other people’s deaths: by murder, or by driving them to suicide. Also indirectly, as a hunter mistakenly shoots an antagonist of Gray. Wilde did not like fox hunting; he called it: ‘The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable’.

Dorian does not age visibly, even as he gets older and commits crimes. The aging and the crimes become visible only on Dorian’s portrait, which gets uglier and uglier.

Ultimately, Dorian attacks the picture with a knife. In that way, he kills himself; as the picture reverts to its youthful original state.

There are many differences between Dorian in Wilde’s book and in the NNT play. In the play, Dorian’s real name is Igor, getting called ‘Dorian Gray’ only later.

Wilde describes Dorian as from a well to do family, while Igor in the play is from a poor background.

Wilde’s Dorian is not an artist, while the NNT’s Igor is an art student and later a famous artist.

In the novel, the gay painter Basil Hallward, who is in love with Dorian, paints the portrait. In the play, female visual artist Ava Ravenstein does that.

In the novel, Lord Henry Wotton pushes Dorian onto the ruinous road of self-indulgence. In the play, rich art collector Ms Bambi Pelecano (by actress Bien de Moor) plays that role, becoming Igor’s manager, renaming him and pushing him into her art market world where only superficiality, fame and money count.

Though both director Christophe Coppens and playwright Javier Barcala are gay and have a same-sex relationship, there are less allusions to homosexuality in the play than in Wilde’s text.

In the novel, Dorian’s self-indulgence causes quite some deaths. In the play only one, until just before the end. The death of Dorian’s/Igor’s girlfriend: actress Sibyl according to Wilde, singer Rebeka according to Barcala.

Then, in the penultimate scene, Igor/Dorian attacks the portrait. With a gun, unlike the knife in the novel, but still killing himself.

In the final scene, manager Bambi Pelecano is interviewed on the now dead Dorian. She does not really want to talk about him anymore, falsely pretending she hardly knew him. According to Ms Pelecano, the interview should instead be about her latest discovery, some really hip and trendy artist.

The audience liked the play, giving it a standing ovation at the end.

4 thoughts on “Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray on stage

  1. Pingback: Shark scales study helped by Alan Turing | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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