Home Estate Planning The Picture of Dorian Gray: Succession star Sarah Snook shines

The Picture of Dorian Gray: Succession star Sarah Snook shines

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I have never seen anything quite like this production of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Succession star Sarah Snook’s one-woman show is a kinetic, surreal, dizzying thing, forever folding into itself and snapping apart like a kaleidoscope.

The Australian actor takes on each of the 26 characters in Oscar Wilde’s famous morality tale about the danger’s of vanity and hedonism. The production initially comes across a bit like a live audiobook, with Snook providing the narration and changing her pitch and tone for each person’s dialogue. She is not, however, completely alone on the stage: she’s forever surrounded by a camera crew, who buzz around her, filming her every action and beaming it onto a series of vast screens, three storeys high, that hang above the stage. 

They film her as she whips off one costume and wriggles into another, the crew furnishing her with mutton chops and blonde curls when she’s playing Dorian, or a moustache and jacquard coat when she’s the louche Lord Henry Wotton.

Then, just when you think you’ve got to grips with the production, Snook taps herself on the shoulder. Through pre-recorded sections of video, niftily edited into the live camera footage, Snook is able to communicate with other versions of herself, each wearing different costumes, creating a mad, one-person dialogue.

This is not a subtle play. Each character is deliberately, grotesquely overacted and some lines are delivered with a literal wink. Buckets’ worth of mud are chucked against the walls – and floor and ceiling – to see what sticks. There’s a puppet show; there’s liberal use of Instagram filters to represent the young, idealised Dorian and the terrible painting that bears the physical marks of his hedonistic lifestyle; there is disco music; there is an entire sequence shot in a real-life forest. It’s all deliciously messy but it’s also an incredible feat of choreography, everyone hitting their cues in what amounts to a frenetic, non-stop multimedia ballet.

It all hinges on Snook and she’s incredible, the laugh-out-loud moments of the first half morphing into something suitably horrific as Dorian slowly unravels.

Kip Williams’ adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece features some reflection on the vanity of today’s Instagram culture but this production is more interested in balls-to-the-wall spectacle than it is in moralising. The draws here are the sumptuous costumes, the bravura production values and the stunning performance that lies at its heart.

Celebrity one-person shows are hardly a rarity these days – in recent weeks we’ve seen Andrew Scott perform Uncle Vanya, Eddie Izzard doing the entirety of Great Expectations, and last year Jodie Comer picked up a Tony for her solo show Prima Facie. Are they vanity projects? Perhaps, but as Dorian Gray discovers, vanity can be the most intoxicating of sins.

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