The Picture of Dorian Gray – directed by Neil Bartlett on BBC Radio 3

Neil BartlettThere’s a chorus similar to his production of Great Expectations which we saw at Bristol’s Old Vic.

One anachronism was the chorus reciting the Lord’s Prayer with the translation which wasn’t available in Oscar Wilde’s day: On earth, Those who – or is the chorus a voice from the future, commenting on the past. (A reviewer in Dublin wrote than ‘the language breaks into modern turns of phrases which came across as jarring.’ Another explains that ‘. The cast of characters take on the role of the chorus in a Greek tragedy to convey the bloody images and passing of time that we, the audience, cannot see.’

There is a distinctive sound of kissing between Henry and Dorian.

tom cantonGray is played by Tom Canton who was also in Bartlett’s production of Great Expectations. His professional debt was also as Dorian Grey in Dublin in 2012.

Bartlett, at an interview, was asked if the play was a metaphor for Ireland today? Or for society? He said, ‘It’s hard not to feel a twinge of modernity when somebody says about Dorian “You are what the age is seeking for, and what it is afraid it has found.”’

He also said that the biggest challenge was deciding which of Wilde’s beautiful sentences I could bear to leave out. He cut what he calls ‘the most marvellous chapter in the book….a very long one where absolutely nothing happens except that Dorian wonders about the meaning of life. I cut the whole thing. And then found a way of doing it.’

One reviewer said that it was ‘terrifying transformation of Oscar Wilde’s novel. ‘ and that ‘Bartlett’s play unsettles by taking Wilde’s trademark epigrams and sending them through the fires of hell. The witticisms are all present and correct, but have been dipped in brimstone. And the director has not shied away from the one area that would be Wilde’s undoing ­homosexual love. But there are no rose-tinted spectacles in use: gay rape leads to suicide and unlawful male love permits the fiendish Gray to force a former “friend” into helping him dispose of a body with chemicals.

It’s a shocking and intense 90 minutes. But this superb production also defines what a good radio play is all about: showing the human condition, with all its frailties, in a way that the listener will never forget. Just like Dorian’s portrait.’

The question abides: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul?

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