The Tragedy of Dorian Gray at the Drayton Arms Theatre: Review by Stephen Vowles 

The Picture of Dorian Gray was Oscar Wilde’s only novel and at the time of its publication in 1890 Wilde himself described the novel as a look at philosophical decadence. 

Ross Dinwiddy, writer and director of this re-imagining of this fable, has kept that theme alive and moved the action to the London of the swinging 60’s and carried that through to the turn of the millennium.

The cast is lead by a very good-looking – which is vital to the role – Maximus Polling who delivers an awesome performance and his stage persona is just perfect, multi-layering his character as he becomes more of a menace and a monster to the people that surround him.

Dinwiddy through very simple staging and fade to black lighting cues between the scenes, crafted an atmosphere which despite the lack of actual props – except for the use of Champagne bottles and drug paraphernalia – worked creating the era that the play was now set in. 

His female characters, Chloe Orrock as Sybil Vane and Heather Alexander as Mavis Ruxton, were suitably attired in 60’s clobber, and as support to the male characters in the play serve an important purpose, with both actresses giving well-rounded performances, especially Orrock as Vane.  

Polling oozes confidence and a special mention has to be made of Christopher Sherwood who shines and stands out as artist Basil Hallward. The scenes between him and Polling are just terrific and loaded with a sexual tension that is dazzling.

Gray as a play must have the audience on the edge of their seats, offering a  “Will they or won’t they?” tension and Dinwiddy achieves this through a very laid back style of directing. The cast also features Jordan Lewis as Harry Wotton and Conor Litten as Alan Campbell, who also make the play work. Their characters are strong and the way they are performed really produces a sense of foreboding as they both realise and accept the fact they are now involved in the sinister world of Dorian Gray.

The scene transitions are smooth and with this production the issues of gaining social acceptance and respectability are beautifully executed with each of the cast casting their own spells. Dinwiddy has taken a look at being wicked, vanity, cynicism, fame, lust , all consuming desire, intimidation, manipulation and murder – with a touch of satire thrown in for good measure – creating a play that is sexy, provocative and hugely enjoyable to watch.

This is a fascinating reworking of a story that is intriguing and delivered by a cast that, as an ensemble, have connected well. Gorgeous! 


The Tragedy of Dorian Gray at the Drayton Arms Upstairs Theatre runs to Saturday 6th November at 153 Old Brompton Road, London SW5 0LJ. Box office: 020 7835 2301

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