“We hadn’t intended to line it up and cash in on the anniversary, but like many instances with Oscar and myself, it just happened.” 125 years after the book was published The Picture of Dorian Gray has been brought to life again in this new stage adaptation by Oscar Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland, and John O’Connor from the European Arts Company. Holland talked to A Younger Theatre about the many versions of The Picture Of Dorian Gray and how Wilde’s life just seems to slot into place with his own.

This classic Oscar Wilde story has been retold so many times across print, stage, TV and film, I am sure everyone has come across one version or another, and this year The Picture Of Dorian Gray has been entered into the English A level syllabus. For Holland, “this is one other reason that we thought it was absolutely necessary to be as true to the original we can”

The Picture of Dorian Gray was originally first published in the English and American Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, six chapters shorter then the book, and more explicit with its sexual content. It later went to be published as a book in 1891 after Wilde had to rework some of the material due to its homosexual nature.

“I feel that the original book hadn’t been allowed to speak for itself. There have been too many attempts to add to it. Not to be rude about other adaptations but we have tried to be faithful to the original”. People are in for a treat, as with access to the original manuscript, Holland and O’Connor hope to have produced the version of Dorian Gray that Wilde always intended. People may think they know the story but they “have seen a compressed version to the point where some of the psychology is made less credible”. Holland and O’Connor are hoping to bring a fresh insight to a work that many think they know and “whether we have succeeded better then anyone else will be up to the audience”.

This production of The Portrait of Dorian Gray has been advertised and supported by Stonewall. Stonewall campaigns for the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people across Britain and was originally created in 1989. O’Connor’s previous production, The Trials of Oscar Wilde, saw the show’s proceeds donated to Stonewall.

“As we have taken material from the original magazine version, which has significant exchanges between characters that explore the theme of homosexuality”, Stonewall’s support is “wonderful from our point of view”.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is performed by four actors, two of which were in The Trials of Oscar Wilde. “Four actors in 21 different parts, it’s not a vaudeville show but has an element of comedy. It would be impossible to have 21 actors in a studio, so you need talent that can do that. “

“The story itself along with Lord Henry’s wit and Dorian’s dark psychological development, is difficult to bring to life. Being able to bring that into four walls, I mean to make a film you can have innumerable scene changes, but to bring it on stage and make it credible can make it hard.”

The Picture of Dorian Gray plays at The Trafalgar Studios between 18 January and 13 February. 

Image by Emily Hyland.