Thursday 31 October 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Dorian - The Lowry Theatre, Salford.

This is one of the best performances I’ve seen in a while, presented by Proper Job Theatre Company. Writer, Andrew McMillan has pulled out the themes of image fixation and beauty before personality from “A Picture Of Dorian Grey” by Oscar Wilde, and adjusted the context where the play takes place in a modern gym.

“Dorian” told the story of a father and son, their relationship was breaking down. Why? Well it’s a sadly common reason, conversations were taking place while they were both on their phones and on social media. Furthermore, the suffocating notions of not feeling good enough and inadequacy clouded their perceptions of outer reality: they were both suffering. Dorian, the father, was having a mid-life crisis and wanted to become fit, bulky and desirable. It wouldn’t have been a problem if he was doing it for himself and his health. However, this was an unhealthy obsession for other people’s approval; chasing an unrealistic goal. On the opposite end of the scale Sam, the son, was becoming too thin and appeared to be suffering with bulimia. Consequently, all of their relationships were impacted.

There was effective pre-performance work as Harry, the personal trainer, gave us a coupon for 10% off his gym membership scheme. It exposed how certain companies and people wish to profit from other people thinking they aren’t good enough. Exploiting their vulnerabilities. For example it’s when someone says: “I must buy these clothes because other people will think I’ll look amazing” or “I have to go to the gym so I can look and feel sexy for others”. It’s a tragic desire to feel loved by others because they don’t love who they are now.

The play’s definition of manipulation was explored in great detail. How we manipulate others, for example through YouTube Videos. Sarah talked to her YouTube audience as though they were her friends gossiping over drinking lattes. She acts as though she’s going to reveal a closely guarded make-up secret which actually turns out to be made up. Very superficial. How we manipulate ourselves, becoming destructively fixated on a goal and you’ll never be happy unless you achieve it. Image manipulation, photo-shopping images of models so they meet society’s beauty standards. But Sarah’s job title was not “Photo-shopper” it was “Image Optimisation Expert”. Two of my favourite lines in the play were: “When we stop posting online do we stop existing?” and “Some people don’t want to change because when they have done it's mission accomplished. Boring.”

There were a plethora of concepts and ideas analysed in the writing, it was multifaceted and incredibly relevant. Presenting a scenario which is psychologically and physically damaging to the central characters. At one point it was actually encouraging that the audience didn’t join in with “Hench With Harry’s Workout”. Dorian’s tragic transformation was scary, he went from being a tender father with an aura of innocence to a hard-hearted bully. He did not want to be as weak as his son, reflecting the stigma which still exists surrounding mental health. The intermittent music was both sweet and sinister, carrying a clear feeling of poignancy. It was gorgeously sung and played.

“Dorian” was cleverly designed, half looking like it was set in 1891 with the window/mirror frames and statues and the rest of it taking place in 2019. Basically, it proved that the classics are still pertinent to present society. It was authentically acted with varied vocal work. The quote on the show’s leaflet was written by Wilde saying: “Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.” The play was an embodiment of this sentence. Intelligent and beautifully tragic.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 30/10/19

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