Edinburgh Reviews: Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray

Well, this was the cheapest thing I saw all festival, being as it was just £5 for me, a student, to sit up on the slopes of the upper circle. Since then I’ve seen this show being given a bit of a slagging off in the national press, so I’ll leave those interested in the show’s shortcomings to read reviews by people more widely read than me. I quite enjoyed it, thought the whole thing was brilliantly performed and, for the most part, well choreographed (though it is slightly uneven; the opening half hour sets a high standard which the show finds it hard to live up to all the time), holding my attention throughout. The best thing about the show, however, is the design, both lighting and set, and, to a lesser extent, the sound and costumes. The production of this show is absolutely fantastic, and worth the money alone (and I don’t just mean because it was £5).

It’s true that Bourne doesn’t seem to have a lot to say about what a modern Dorian Gray might be, but I can’t agree with the critics who say that the doppelganger is a poor substitute for a portrait. How on earth would an onstage portrait be an effective part of a ballet? Anyway, in some ways the concept hasn’t been completely discarded, with both the art works on the wall in Gray’s appartment, and the billboard featuring Gray which makes two contrasting appearances during the show, carrying on the idea of art mirroring Gray’s moral decline in life. The doppelganger is a bit rubbish not because it’s a bad idea, but because it’s not very well executed: the doppelganger doesn’t especially display the decline that one might expect, either in appearance or expressed (noticeably, at any rate) in the choreography.

Other detractors, including some of the friends with whom I saw the show (admittedly more musically literate than me), have taken issue with the music, which is quite stylised and electronic. Personally, I quite liked it; it’s not like I’d want to buy a CD of it, but it suits the production and sits well alongside the choreography, without drawing too much attention to itself most of the time.

So ultimately, not Bourne’s best work by any means, but probably not deserving of the backlash which it received in some quarters.

3/5

(of course, if I marked the show on the same scale as the Fringe stuff I’ve been reviewing, it would be 5/5, but there seems little point in doing that)

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