Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in 1890. The novel was considered morally offensive and was edited and revised. Wilde’s novel told the story of Dorian Gray, a good looking but hedonistic young aristocrat who is the subject of a full-length oil painting. Dorian is so obsessed with his youthful beauty that he chooses to sell his soul to ensure the portrait will age and fade, while he remains young and beautiful. The portrait takes on the sins of Gray, becoming a grotesque and virtually unrecognisable image. It’s a fascinating philosophical concept and Dorian Gray remains one of literature’s classic characters.
Melbourne playwright, Gabriel Bergmoser, has continued the tale of Dorian Gray – proposing that Dorian Gray never died, bringing him into the modern day and still just as young and beautiful as ever.
Knowledge of Oscar Wilde’s novel or the character of Dorian Gray is not required to enjoy this play. However, there are references to the original work that will be appreciated by those who are familiar with it and some clever analogies and modernisations that may be missed if new to the story. Despite this, The Tale of Dorian Gray is still an engaging play for anyone.
Set in the upper floor of the Courthouse hotel in North Melbourne, the audience takes on an almost voyeuristic role as the action unfolds. The room itself works as the set. Props are minimal, but effective in keeping the attention solely focused on the two characters. A film montage (by Cielo Croci) projected onto the wall enhances the plot and makes a powerful statement about the world in which we live and what has taken place over the past century.
Directed by Peter Blackburn, The Trial of Dorian Gray explores not just the concept, but also the price of immortality. While the play is a satisfyingly enjoyable theatrical work, there is considerable intellectual depth to this storyline and it will linger well after the performance has ended. It’s the sort of play you really need to sit down over a coffee after the show and process everything you just witnessed to really take it all in.
The opening scene starts as a sensual cat and mouse game, which then continues into an intellectual cat and mouse game, culminating in a climactic twist that had the audience audibly gasping in surprise. I won’t give away any further of the storyline to avoid any spoilers.
James Biasetto is exceptional in the role of Dorian Gray. He has a charismatic and confident presence that makes his portrayal very convincing. There’s something both likeable and arrogant about his character.
Playing opposite Biasetto is Ratidzo Mambo as Dorian Gray’s love interest, Michaela. Mambo matches Biasetto’s performance and the pair share a believable chemistry. This one act play is squarely focused on the life of Dorian Gray and there is little opportunity to really delve into the character of Michaela until her story unfolds quite quickly at the conclusion of the play.
The Trial of Dorian Gray is sexy, surprising and provocative. While it felt satisfying, it eft me wanting to know more, but ultimately left me pondering the concept – and price – of immortality.
If you missed the premiere, sold-out season at Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival, grab your tickets quickly if the play returns.