SUDS’ queer adaptation ‘Dorian’ hits all the right notes

SUDS’ latest anticipated production hits all the right notes as a  wonderfully adapted contemporary re-interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, refocusing on the novel’s original Queer undertones.

Unlike many other adaptations of this novel, Nadia Bracegirdle’s version uses the original manuscript, which was far more forthright in its view of queerness and is far more succinct than the more widely read version of the novel. Bracegirdle manages to take this source text and carve a great dramatic arc from Wilde’s pages of beautiful descriptions and also manages to create moments of comedy in a truly witty, Wildean fashion.

Jane Hughes, a first time director, does so admirably. She does away with the British accents, which often constrain productions of Wilde allowing the actors to use their natural accents. This works tremendously in bringing a greater naturalism and believability to many of the actors. Nevertheless, Hughes’ one shortcoming is the use of the entire width of the Cellar Theatre’s stage. Though she creates a beautiful opening tableau, the width of the performance area saps some of the necessary claustrophobia from the second act.

Hughes succeeds also in coaxing fantastic performances out of her actors. Chloe Higson deserves a special mention for her role as Harriet Wotton. Higson injects her character with the correct level of superficiality to illustrate the vanity of English society in the 1890s. In the second act, however, when Harriet’s friend Basil Hallward ‘disappears’ this superficiality dissipates. Higson’s physicality becomes heavy as if a great depression has fallen upon her: demonstrating the pain that lay behind the social trappings of many of the upper classes in Victorian England.

Tom Mendes does a commendable job of portraying Dorian Gray. While, Mendes’ performance lacks some of the naïveté at the beginning of the piece required for a convincing  descent into moral corruption, once Dorian has dispensed with his ethics, Mendes is in his element, illustrating the lengths to which Dorian will go in order to protect his reputation.
Costume and set design was easily one of the production’s highlights. The costumes intricately designed by Imogen King are correct to the period, which brings a great authenticity to the show. King’s costumes are superbly detailed with minute stitching, which the intimate Cellar Theatre space allows the audience to see.

SUDS has produced a good performance of a classic 19th century novel. One should pay particular attention to Bracegirdle’s Dorian that captures perfectly the spirit of Wilde’s original novel.

Dorian plays 27th – 30th July and 3rd - 6th August at 7:00 in the Cellar Theatre, Holme Building, Science Rd. Tickets are still available from trybooking.

Pulp Editors