Despite the clear challenges that come with adapting a classic contemporary novel featuring multiple locations and characters to a one-woman West End show, Kip William's The Picture of Dorian Gray manages to surpass all expectations and difficulties, delivering a refreshingly original and technologically impressive production. Yet how much of the performance is necessary to view live on stage compared to at home through a screen?

Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel that scrutinizes and analyses the vanity, solipsism and narcissism seen within Victorian society, traits that sadly with the advent of the digital age and gross misuses of social media are just as, in not more prevalent than ever before, making a modern play adaptation seem culturally fitting and necessary. The choice however to turn the stage adaptation into a one-woman show featuring Emmy and Golden Globe winner Sarah Snook is less obvious. While having one actor perform all roles in the play would fulfill one of the novel's core provocations, that human beings are creatures with “myriad lives and myriad sensations,” actually doing so would be incredibly challenging as there are 26 distinct characters to play. Dorian Gray tackles this issue by utilizing multiple modern facets of technology to make it appear as though there are several people in a scene. While Snook acts on stage, a team of camera operators follows her and broadcasts her every move to multiple different screens littered around the hall, some of which feature pre-recorded footage of Snook acting as other characters, allowing her onstage self to interact with them. Interacting with pre recorded footage has a high potential for diasaster as it would only take a slight technological issue in the production to affect the whole proceedings and destroy the flow of the play, yet Snook seamlessly interacts with her other selves, keeping audiences completely engaged throughout.


Beyond the impressive technical spectacle the show provides, my favorite element of Kip William’s Dorain Gray are Snook's captivating performances and the ways in which the novel's contents are adapted for a 21st-century audience. While Oscar WiIlde’s novel is no short of humorous moments and anecdotes, Kip William's version amplifies the comedy within the story, amplifying the absurdity and flamboyant nature of certain characters via Snook playing over-the-top caricatures of Victorian stereotypes. The necessity to do this arises from having to give each character Snook plays a drastically different feel as to properly emulate the idea she is interacting with different people rather than just prerecordings of herself. What’s most impressive about this is how Snook can play up the absurdity and poke fun at these characters without her performance losing any severity, intensity or focus on the play's subject matter and the morally dubious hedonistic beliefs and actions of Dorian, best exemplified via a delightfully twisted musical number during the shows most dramatic and morally reprehensible moment to poke fun at the sheer insanity of the situation and Dorian’s inflated ego. THe effectiveness of this scene is in no short part helped by Snook oozing charisma and energy from the very second she enters the stage. 


While the show is undoubtedly very impressive, the degree to which it needs to be viewed live is debatable. Unlike most plays in which your viewing an actor or group of actors performing scenes diegetically, allowing you to feel the true weight and gravitas of people's performances, your nearly always watching a screen showcasing Snook’s acting rather than the actual stage with there even being multiple sections of the play where Snook is obscured from audiences view and is hidden behind screens. The use of these screens also has the potential to take away from audiences appreciating the actual performance being displayed as it is easy to find yourslef more entranced in the aesthetic and minutia of how the play is performed rather than the narrative itself. This can however be forgiven as very few plays have achieved, let alone even attempted to blend pre recorded footage with stage production to this magnitude. This aside, The Picture of Dorain Gray is virtually perfect in my eyes and essential viewing for anyone who has a remote interest in theater.