“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative,” claimed Oscar Wilde. This pronouncement suggests he may not have appreciated Dramsoc’s conservative adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray.
The plot details the rise and fall of the handsome, but emotionally deficient Dorian. After the cruel rejection of his fiancée Sibyl leads her to commit suicide, Dorian becomes increasingly disillusioned with life. He reverts to a hedonistic existence, all the while remaining ill at ease with the disconcertingly realistic portrait which occupies his home. Despite enjoying perpetual youth thereafter, Dorian cannot rid himself of the guilt he feels as a result of his unsavoury past.
The production was a solid if unspectacular treatment of Wilde’s moralistic parable. Using John Osborne’s adaptation as its basis, it opted to faithfully preserve the novel, thereby treating the text with utmost respect.
Yet there is certainly a case for modernising the story, given the deluge of contemporary concerns which imbue the narrative. The production may have benefitted from its themes of latent homosexuality, excess and superficiality being explored within a contemporary context, as the results of such experimentation would undoubtedly have proved to be interesting.
Nonetheless, Wilde’s drama remains as bewitching as ever and the play was also aided by a series of capable performances from a strong cast. Craig White, playing the narcissistic Dorian, as well as Sean Ferrick, as the doomed artist Basil Hallward, both impressed in their respective roles.
However, Katie McCann stole the show, perfectly conveying the charm and wit of Lord Henry Wotton, attributes which the character consequently utilises to transfix the eponymous protagonist. Her performance was particularly impressive, considering that she had had to deal with the added responsibility of co-directing the drama along with Conor McKenna.
Visually, the play was not particularly distinctive, though the production adequately applied the limited resources at its disposal. Instead of creating an actual portrait, a bare frame was used, while a Dorian lookalike merely stood motionless looking out of the frame, thus representing the figure in the portrait.
Meanwhile, the play also encompassed a chorus comprising of supernatural figures who watched over proceedings during the plays climactic scenes and whose demented cackles haunted Dorian’s psyche and added an extra layer of eerie intensity to the production.
Although the play may not have been Dramsoc’s most accomplished presentation, the uniformly excellent performances rendered it a worthwhile endeavour. Perhaps all art is not quite so useless after all.