This striking and edgy version of Oscar Wilde’s story acts as a powerful warning about depending too much on social media.
Chilling and atmospheric, Henry Filloux-Bennett’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s story gives it a whole new meaning in this contemporary version that focuses on the obsession of being perfect through social media.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, Tik Tok – with the variety of social media out there now it is not difficult to see how quickly and obsessive people become with regards to followers and likes in an attempt to stand out an be noticed. Which is exactly what happens to Dorian Gray, who while initially starts a YouTube channel to support his learning as English student during lockdown. However, he is soon obsessed about his lack of followers and so he becomes determined to take social media by storm – with the help of a mysterious filter that makes him look ‘even better’ than in real life. Things take a dark turn and soon obsession transforms to danger and no return.
In his adaptation, Filloux-Bennett unveils the story through an interview with Lady Narborough (Joanna Lumley) and Harry (Alfred Enoch) in the aftermath of the tragic events, interspersed with some of the key moments that transformed Dorian’s life and relationships. It is a clever way of doing it as it effectively ramps up the tension beautifully – while questioning how much the others around him could have prevented what happens. Deeply psychological and atmospheric, it is absorbing to watch unfold.
Directed with great intensity by Tamara Harvey, the production is gorgeous to look at with its beautiful use of visual effects and the lighting style that effectively adapts as the story gets darker – the final scene in which we see Dorian sitting at his desk is particularly haunting, while the use of close ups really allows the audience to feel the intimacy of Dorian’s relationships with Harry and Sibyl (Emma McDonald). There is a great flair and creativity in each scene that makes the story flow nicely.
But the whole production also acts as huge warning for us all – particularly given lockdown our reliance on social media has gone up. This is highlighted the moment in which Sibyl freezes on stage in her big moment being broadcast, Dorian later viciously verbally attacks her proclaiming: “Do you have any idea what this will do to my following?” it shows how deep and dark the obsession of social media can turn and impact on many lives.
Fionn Whitehead as Dorian Gray captures the increasing moodiness and obsessive nature of the character in a mesmerising way – highlighted when Basil confronts him about his behaviour, leading to Dorian trying to blackmail him. His mannerisms in this scene alone sends a chill down the spine. Elsewhere, Alfred Enoch is utterly charming as Harry – it is an utterly smooth performance that highlights the character’s affection for Dorian. Meanwhile, Emma McDonald is utterly heartbreaking as Sibyl – sweet but vulnerable with her final speech really standing out in a haunting and devastating way.
This a sharply chilling production that shows the powerful nature of obsession and social media in a captivating way. Worth catching if you can.
By Emma Clarendon
The production will be available internationally, running until the 31st March. Tickets can be purchased at pictureofdoriangray.com