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Sydney review - Dorian Gray Naked: a clever piece of theatre

February 4, 2019

 

Right: Blake Appelqvist in the role of Dorian Gray

 

Dorian Gray Naked- A new musical

Libretto by Melvyn Morrow

Music by Dion Condack

A Popinjay Production

Directed By Melvyn Morrow

Limelight on Oxford

231 Oxford Street

Darlinghurst

 

Season:  30 January – 16 February . Bookings: www.limelightonoxford.com.au

 

If I’m asked what Dorian Gray Naked is about, the answer is simple: its about Dorian Gray, naked! Not only physically, but naked to the soul, where the factors that govern choices about morality, ethics and virtues are examined and explored.

At the world premiere of Dorian Gray Naked we saw the character famously manufactured in the late nineteenth century completely stripped down and a self-cross-examination takes place before his creator Oscar Wilde.

The writer and director Melvyn Morrow has put together a deep explanation of who Dorian Gray is, using witty and penetrating language in script and lyric form. With music by Dion Condack and choreography by Nathan Mark Wright, the story is largely a monologue with good tempo and lively actions.

This show is not an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s novel. However, some knowledge of the novel’s storyline is helpful to get the most enjoyment out of it. So, for those not familiar with the story, the character of Dorian Gray is a man chosen to sit for a portrait because of his charming good looks. He becomes seduced by the pursuit of pleasure and self-indulgence, even to the detriment and destruction of people around him. He makes a wish that his portrait should age whilst he remains beautiful and young. As time passes, his amoral life choices are reflected in the portrait, which becomes hideous and disgusting. To reverse this process, he tries to destroy the portrait, resulting in his own death and the return to beauty of the portrait.

Dorian Gray Naked begins with Dorian engaging with the audience. We are his confidante as he explains his life to us. He is a mixture of regret and contrition but paradoxically he enjoys the slow strip tease he performs. On stage is a gentleman’s clothes butler which personifies his creator Oscar Wilde.

Sometimes his demeanour is sorrowful signalling that his soul is not completely lost. And then he bounces back, boasting of his many sexual conquests, including a dalliance with an archbishop. Ah, the old Dorian always returns.

One of the themes in the play is the interconnection between art and life. Another is the struggle between the creator and the created. “A portrait done with feeling is of the artist, not of the sitter” says Dorian, implying that the grotesque imagery of his portrait is really a reflection of Oscar Wilde, the creator.

This intelligent soliloquy really belongs to Blake Appelqvist in the role of Dorian Gray. With a commanding stage presence, cheeky expressions and mannerisms, and an appealing singing voice, Blake really breathes personality into Dorian.

Also crucial to the success of this production is Dion Condack. He is ever-present on stage with his piano and is the alter-ego for Dorian to reinforce his warped view of life. Dion has composed 20 songs throughout the play, mostly sung by Blake in his own unmistakable style. Notable were Party, Fathers and Sons and Forever.

There is plenty of colour in the show, with often elaborate, 19th century garments, both before and after disrobing! It is never dull in its 75-minute duration, with a cabaret-style feel, ideal for the intimate Limelight on Oxford theatre setting.

In this age of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Dorian Gray Naked is a timely opportunity to reflect on the rise of narcissism and the peril which may await those seeking unbridled pleasure. It is a clever piece of theatre, professionally orchestrated. Be quick to see!

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