It’s part psychological thriller; it’s part Gothic horror; and audience response so far has been excellent.
Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, in a new stage adaptation by Séan Aydon, is at Horsham’s Capitol Theatre from Monday to Saturday, April 29-May 4, courtesy of Tilted Wig Productions.
The Picture of Dorian Gray tells the story of a wealthy and beautiful young man’s downfall through moral corruption and seduction. Dorian, fearing that his good looks would fade as he grows old, wishes that a portrait of him could bear the burden of the ageing process, leaving him young. But at what cost?
Jonathan Wrather, known for playing Pierce Harris in Emmerdale (2016-2017) and Joe Carter in Coronation Street (2002-03), takes on the role of Lord Henry Wotton.
“People seem to like the show that we present. It was always going to be an adaptation of a novel, so of course we are at the behest of the adaptor. But we have got a new version which has been adapted by our director and he has put together a really fabulous adaptation.
“He has contemporised it. It is actually set in a timeless period. It has got its foot in Victorian times and also one foot in now. When Oscar Wilde wrote it, he was wanting it to span 18 years into the future, so really he was writing a rather progressive, futuristic kind of novel.”
It is also a brilliant story: “It is a psychological thriller and also a Gothic horror, and you can’t get away from that. There are echoes of just how relevant it is today, and we have found it to be a very layered piece. We have got a clear and detailed story, and I think it has kept the absolute truth of the story.”
As for Wotton: “He choses to ‘emancipate’ Dorian and lives slightly vicariously through him as well. He has his moral code that is slightly outside the norms of the day. But he talks about the life that he leads but he won’t let himself go the whole hog. He sees Dorian almost as a blank canvas, no pun intended; he almost sees him in experimental terms.”
After a fairly short rehearsal period, moving from venue to venue helps keep the company on their toes, says Jonathan, but he admits that touring can be a challenge in other ways: “You spend a lot of time away from home, and I have got a young family, two young children, aged two and four, and they miss their papa and I miss them.”
It has been a while since Jonathan has done a similar tour, but as he says, the theatre was why he went into the business in the first place: “I started off at school and in the local youth theatre. I was in the National Youth Theatre and then moved on to RADA and I started out doing theatre more often than not.
“These days the industry has changed and somehow now you can transcend the boundaries much more. You used to generally keep doing what you started out doing. My first few jobs were in the theatre and it took a while to get into TV, but you always come back to the theatre.”
Not that Jonathan has a preference: “It all depends on the project. I love the camaraderie of stage work, but I’ve had a great time on TV projects. It’s just a different focus, a different concentration, a different process.”