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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

Grand designs: The Garden of Words @ParkTheatre

The Garden of Words explores what it is like when you're alone but surrounded by thousands of people. Projections, music and an engaging cast tell a unique story about an unlikely bond between a young boy and an older woman. The bond leads to a thoughtful and emotional journey about discovering yourself and being okay with that. After all, as the play reminds us throughout, people are indeed weird. Although being surrounded by peculiar people is probably good, it might make you feel a bit more normal. But that's not quite how the story pans out here. It's currently playing at the Park Theatre

The piece introduces us to Takao (Hiroki Berrecloth) and Yukari (Aki Nakagawa). They first meet one day, escaping from the rain in a Japanese Garden. He's skipping school, seeking solace among the birds and the trees, and she is missing work. It's a chance encounter that, over the seasons, becomes a friendship bonding over poetry, shoemaking and exciting choices in cooking and why eating beer and chocolate isn't such a great idea. And the events in their lives over the season bring them closer together.

While unfamiliar with the source material, this piece captures the time and place beautifully. It's at its strongest, exploring the relationship between the young student and the mysterious older lady. Berrecloth, as the young man, is mesmerising as we follow his journey. There's a nice touch where his drawings are on an old-style overhead projector, long disused as a teaching aid in schools here but seemingly pertinent as he learns from his older tutor.

Nakagawa, as Yukari, the lost woman with the red umbrella, is equally compelling as she moves from mystery to form a tentative relationship with the young Takao. 

Heightening the drama is the gorgeous use of projections to evoke the changing of seasons and the city of Tokyo. And a music score by Mark Choi helps maintain the atmosphere and focus. 

The Garden of Words is at Park Theatre until 9 September, directed by Alexandra Rutter. Worth a look, even if you're not too weird. 


Photos: Piers Foley Photography

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