Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, Richmond Theatre

Under Richmond’s magnificent, Matcham-designed proscenium nestles another, more gaudy one. This has the air of a Victorian children’s toy theatre, with its simplified, painted-on swags and crudely-drawn ornamentations.

The effect is amplified once the small theatre’s curtain rises, revealing sets constructed from painted flats and characters ripped straight from the Big Boys’ Book of Wildean Archetypes. There’s the imperious dowager who is the fulcrum of society; the absent-minded vicar for whom devotion to God is not top of his list of priorities; the foppish aristocrat who can’t help but get himself into trouble; and his fiancée, whose only role seems to be the prize the aristo will receive for relinquishing his foppish ways. If the actors had lengths of wood attached to their feet, running off into the wings to be controlled by the hands of giant children, it would be no surprise.
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Dorian Gray – the teaser trailer

Not the [Matthew Bourne](http://www.sadlerswells.com/show/Matthew-Bournes-Dorian-Gray-09) version, nor indeed the play which continues at [Leicester Square Theatre](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/24905/dorian-gray) 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:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dY93VUQSMo4

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.