New comers, WAQ productions, made an excellent effort in transforming the Lincoln Art Centre into a den of queer frivolity and iniquity for its opening night performance of Dorian. From the car park, the large projection (Julyan Stephens) onto the neighbouring factory wall of clips from the show was beautiful in its black and white slickness.
Upon entering the venue, I felt like I was stepping onto set of a Xavier Dolan film. The 90s inspired dance tracks were loud and pulsating and the purple haze lighting filtered the room. The seriously queer boys who greeted the audience, (if you accept a slight lift of the head with a deadpan stare a greeting), looked suitably vain and obviously self-obsessed. Their bare chests, the high heels and the tight shorts with pert buttocks peeping cheekily from underneath the hem line, all boded well for a seriously queer examination of Wilde’s classic tale.
Devised and directed by Adam Grima, the piece promised to deliver, through physical theatre, image based representations of the themes and characters of Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray emphasizing the homoerotic subtext within it. No easy task. Rabble Theatre Co. it seems will tackle this same work in a few weeks with their version of Dorian Gray for the Melbourne Festival.
The members of the audience sat on the edges of a stark white catwalk. This well constructed set already a good symbol for the audience of our society’s strong interest in appearance and beauty.
Grima and his cast manage to extract, with some degree of success, the preoccupation of the novel with beauty, vanity, deception and sin. They do this with careful and self-aggrandizing dance moves, some amusing scenes involving mime, simulated sex scenes and bits of dialogue which delivered an appropriate aphorism or two.
The cast strutted their bodies with serene confidence. The all-male cast showed how Dorian (Johnathon Duffy) enjoyed adulation on the gay dance-floors and behind closed doors because of his unmatched beauty. A scene involving a clubber standing idly at a basin inside the toilets of a club where he just stared, engrossed and thrilled by the different men who stood next to him washing their hands, spoke volumes of the behaviour of males and the peacock dances they perform for each other. Fleeting moments of recognition or rejection, the admiring or admonishing looks were conveyed well.
As Dorian’s slips further into debauchery after having made his pact with his soul that his portrait would age instead of himself, things get saucier on the WAQ catwalk stage culminating in the infamous portrait scene at the novel’s end. By far the best moment of the piece was this climactic ending. In the novel, on seeing his destroyed face and figure within the portrait, Dorian proceeds to stab at it and in doing so, stabs himself. Grima manages to stage this episode in a very creative and dramatic way. The image created on stage that Duffy executes extremely well, was perfectly grotesque especially after all the shine and sequins of the previous scenes.
The costumes (Emma Howchin) were well chosen and really gave a sense of glamour and ostentation. The soundtrack by Duffy, was used effectively helping to convey the images on stage.
Perhaps it was just opening night nerves or a need for more rehearsal but overall more commitment to the images the cast was creating and definitely more commitment to what was being said on stage was needed. The dialogue scenes between characters flat lined as the music and the movement stopped. More work in bringing them alive was needed. Could there have been more of an array of shorter snippets of dialogue throughout to marry more easily with the images being created? Overall, there needed to be more raunch and less pouting.
Wilde’s novel does come to life in many parts of this company’s ambitious foray into one of the queerest novels of the 19th century. It’s worth a look for the final scene at least.