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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

Nasty boys: Gentlemen @Arcolatheatre

It's a tough life in an elite university. If you thought college was a place for caring, understanding, nurturing and tuition, you might be in for a big surprise. In Matt Parvin's Gentlemen, it's the latest battleground for the culture wars. Everything is a score to be settled with sanctimony, mind games or both. Everything is about fitting in or resisting all attempts to conform. It's currently playing at the Arcola Theatre

The premise is that Greg (Charlie Beck) is meeting with the college welfare officer, Timby (Edward Judge). Kaspar (Issam Al Ghussain) has alleged bi-phobic comments about his sexual orientation. Greg is also potentially up for charges of assault. 

Both freshmen, the hormones and the anger race as fast as their minds. Soon, the concept of right and wrong, fitting in or being an individual, gets into many grey areas. Will an example be set of loudmouth Greg from a struggling background, or will he be given one last chance? Each takes turns pleading their case (or manipulating) Timby. And he seems sincere yet impotent. 

It's a tightly written piece, with the scenes moving between one character and the next. You also get some sense of the pressure facing young people to study, to succeed, to fit in or not with its perverse results. And while kudos for featuring a bi character, it's not the most positive depiction of bi-inclusion. 

The cast does well, perhaps too well, at creating this insular world where outrage or fitting in seems to be the only two paths to follow and where common ground seems elusive. 

And perhaps that's the point of the play. We're running out of safe places to learn and reflect. And that appeasing the polarised is not particularly satisfying. Whether you find it an enjoyable piece of theatre might depend on where your sympathies lie. I settled on the two boys being two little shits, so I remained ambivalent about the piece's politics and arguments.

Directed by Richard Spier and written by Matt Pravin, Gentlemen plays at The Arcola through to 28 October. 


Production photos by Alex Brenner

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