Song of the Seagull, Menier Gallery

Editor’s Rating
[media-credit name=”Patrick Dodds” align=”aligncenter” width=”584″]Vera in Song of the Seagull[/media-credit]
Persia Lawson as Vera in Song of the Seagull, Menier Gallery
Any playwright who tries to take on the life of Anton Chekhov must surely be on a hiding to nothing, as their work is most likely going to compare to the Russian dramatist’s own work. Writer/director Linnie Reedman, whose Dorian Gray I enjoyed at the Leicester Square Theatre in 2009, thus has her work cut out.

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Song of the Seagull, Menier Gallery2Scott Matthewman2012-03-16 13:10:50
Persia Lawson as Vera in Song of the Seagull, Menier Gallery
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Dorian Gray – the teaser trailer

Not the [Matthew Bourne]( version, nor indeed the play which continues at [Leicester Square Theatre]( until August 2. No, this is the movie version, with Oscar Wilde’s novel being given the full Hollywood costume drama treatment, starring Ben Barnes, Colin Firth and some truly terrifying hairstyles:


Dorian Gray, Leicester Square Theatre

The basement of the Leicester Square is transformed into a Victorian parlour-cum-bordello to provide the perfect setting for Linnie Reedman’s retelling of Wilde’s gothic fable.

Matthew James Thomas is suitably boyish as Dorian, who starts off a rather louche aesthete, before surrendering his soul upon acquisition of the infamous portrait, here represented by an empty frame. Clearly at his most comfortable when seated at the piano, his performance of Joe Evans’ accomplished musical numbers add weight to proceedings.

In the first act, though, the character of Dorian is secondary to the events surrounding him, especially the battle for his attentions between the infatuated portrait painter Basil (a fine performance from Ilan Goodman) and Vincent Manna’s Lord Henry, who succeeds in tempting Dorian down the path of debauchery that will ultimately prove his downfall.

And it is Manna’s performance that makes this play. While his performance is prone to play as if to a much larger room – a fault of the production as a whole – he nonetheless mixes the comedy of Wilde’s best lines with the strictures of the English upper-class effortlessly.

Where the direction does excel is in imaginative use of its small cast to cause Dorian to see ghosts at every corner. With more touches like that, this good production could be improved further.