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MiNDFOOD reviews: Sydney Theatre Company turns ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ on its head

Eryn Jean Norvill in STC The Picture of Dorian Gray 2020 Photo Dan Boud

MiNDFOOD reviews: Sydney Theatre Company turns ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ on its head

'The Picture of Dorian Gray' is a novel by Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, first published in 1890 to be greeted by scandal, alluding as it does to homosexual desire and extra-marital affairs.

MiNDFOOD reviews: Sydney Theatre Company turns ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ on its head

It tells the story of a beautiful young man, Dorian, who is much desired and pursued within society, and whose portrait (painted by an admirer, Basil Hallward) ages in the attic as its subject remains permanently young and exquisite.

Although his face remains unravaged, Dorian’s character turns progressively uglier as the narrative proceeds, leading ultimately to tragedy on a grand scale.

In the 130 years since it was written, there have been around 10 films made of the book, with varying degrees of success.

In a world premiere, the Sydney Theatre Company has turned the story on its head, presenting it as a one-woman virtuoso performance, with actor Eryn Jean Norvill playing each one of the play’s 26 roles.

Eryn Jean Norvill in STC The Picture of Dorian Gray 2020, Photo by Dan Boud

This is achieved through a combination of pre-recorded video performances of several of the characters and Norvill’s portraying the rest of the figures live on stage, gliding with bewildering ease from one to the next, complete with on-stage costume and wig changes.

This may sound clunky and confusing – on the contrary, it is engaging and entertaining due to Norvill’s impressive talent and physical energy, and the technical wizardry of the camera
and lighting crew.

The themes of modern-day society’s obsession with youth, beauty and the achievement of eternal youth through sometimes deceptive or nefarious means are manifested through the use of Instagram, selfies and smart-phone apps.

Director Kip Williams must be congratulated for the extraordinary way he has completely reimagined the 19th century text.

Eryn Jean Norvill in STC The Picture of Dorian Gray 2020, Photo by Dan Boud

Possibly an actor unknown to many audiences due to her relative lack of film and television exposure, Norvill is a revelation.

For two hours straight, she plays a cornucopia of characters from young to elderly, both male and female – with nuance and skill – in a play that is both laugh-out-loud funny at times but ultimately, calamitous.

On opening night of the play, she received a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. Catch this if you can.

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Roslyn Packer Theatre
28 November – 19 December, 2020

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