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Eternal guilt: Dorian The Musical @SWKplay

Dorian is a new musical that updates Oscar Wilde’s gothic novel from the uptight Victorian era to an undetermined period of gender fluidity and glam rock. On paper, musicalising the Picture of Dorian Gray to a period of glam rock, social media, and cheap shoes seems like a good idea. After all, Oscar Wilde’s gothic story is very adaptable. It has been the source of countless adaptations for the stage, television or movies. I was half expecting a trashy Dorian, similar to the early 1980s telemovie that shifted Dorian’s gender to a woman. This version falls into a so bad it’s good category with Anthony Perkins in a lead role, who as he ages under makeup starts to look like Andy Warhol.  And while it’s great to see a new show, a strong cast can’t compensate for such an earnest production with underpowered songs. There’s no sense of fun, and some curious staging and costume choices  -mismatched dresses, crocodile boots and furry suits - serve as a distraction. It’s currently playing at th

Mad as duck: The Monkey @theatre503

A debt, a bad nickname and an obsession Reservoir Dogs come into focus in John Stanley's funny and dark play The Monkey at Theatre 503.

Stanley notes that he has distilled the four characters in the piece from the larger than life characters he has encountered. They bring to life the many traits of London's sub-culture of addiction and criminality. It's part of the Homecoming's season of new writing by prisoners and ex-prisoners. The stories are about getting out and going home.

But what is fascinating in this hilarious piece is how he has created a unique character in Terry. Terry (or Tel as his mates call him) has left Bermondsey and trying to leave his old past behind. But an old mate Thick-Al owes him money (or a monkey)  His mates think he has a bit of screw loose but also that he is a soft touch.

Morgan Watkins brings Tel to life as a crazy, edgy, addicted character with an obsession for 90s R-rated flicks. He paces the stage, adjusts his tie and moves awkwardly in his tight-fitting suit. He stares down the others. Exploding into rage. You're disturbed by him but you can't help liking him.  By the time the piece ends I wanted more. Maybe there are more stories to tell about him in a future book... Or a television series.

As the slob Thick-Al, George Whitehead is the comic buffoon of the piece. While Daniel Kendrick as Dal and Danielle Flett as Becks come across as the troubled yet loveable thieves who rob to feed their addictions.

The play is full of enough slang words to warrant its own glossary at the back of the programme. And no piece set on a south London council estate would be complete without endless rhyming slang to the point that it becomes it's own word play. Plusses become red busses and minuses become sinuses. For Stanley's first play with its constant hilarity and great performances it was all red buses to me.

Directed by Russell Bolam, The Monkey runs at Theatre 503 until 18 March.


Photos by Simon Annand

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