With Pictures of Dorian Gray heading in to rehearsals this week we caught up with Lucy Shaw who wrote the adaptation for a couple of quick questions. As well as re-telling Wilde’s iconic treatise on art and morality the show features a casting twist. When booking you’ll have the choice of male or female actors playing each of the key roles. There’s more information on the Choose your picture page.
Why did you decide to do this gender-mixing version of the Oscar Wilde classic?
It was Tom [Littler, the Director]’s idea! So when I got the commission, that was the deal that I had to work with. Actually, when I first worked through writing the script, I tried not to worry too much about gender, my task was more a stripping bare and distillation of the narrative. What was then fascinating was to experience how with each different introduction of gender the same lines spoken and dynamics played out sprung to life in entirely new ways, and yet each in their difference felt to be entirely true to the original impulse. A quote from the novel had a habit of insisting itself upon me in this regard… Dorian wonders at ‘the shallow psychology of those who conceive the Ego in man as a thing simple, permanent, reliable, and of one essence. To him, man was a being with myriad lives.’
And what will audiences gain from seeing more than one version?
A reminder of the brute force of the gender identities that we carry with us – or attempt not to as the case may be! I think that whichever way you go with gender, whether towards an androgynous embrace of all humans’ equality, or an impassioned battle for the right for anyone to embrace whichever gender identity that they choose, the plain fact is that it cannot be avoided. So this production is very much about painting in all the shades of that palette, rather than blurring all colours into one blurry mess. We have a history, a legacy, a culture, and so gender does matter. And yet… the same story can play out with truth whilst changing all of this around. We are not fixed. In the novel Henry Wotton is referred to as ‘Prince Paradox’, of course Wilde could just as easily have been referring to himself, and, let us hope, may have done of this bold choice in the production of his work!
Tickets are on sale now, the show opens at Blackwell’s Bookshop on 9th July.