PATRICK MARMION reviews Adventurous and The Picture Of Dorian Gray
Dating in lockdown? It’s all a bit of a drama: PATRICK MARMION reviews Adventurous and The Picture Of Dorian Gray
Adventurous (Jermyn Street Theatre; stream.theatre)
Verdict: Lovable stereotypes
The Picture Of Dorian Gray (Barn Theatre, Cirencester; pictureofdoriangray.com)
Verdict: Not-so-lovable stereotypes
Stereotypes have had a bad rap in this age of woke, but I’ve got a lot of time for them. My only caveat is that someone should make sure they receive a regular refresh.
The great national cliche of the Brits being uptight tea-drinkers who can only talk about the weather, for instance, should be updated to include tattoos, Tinder and chicken tikka masala.
So on the face of it, the grey-dating comedy Adventurous, starring Sara Crowe and Ian Hallard, may seem like a passé, old-school stereotype of the reserved middle classes who keep calm, carry on and volunteer for the National Trust.
Sara Crowe and Ian Hallard star in the grey-dating comedy Adventurous at Jermyn Street Theatre
It starts with mild-mannered, middle-aged history teacher Richard (Hallard, who also wrote the play) having an awkward Zoom date with Crowe’s nervous spinster, Rosalind.
But there’s a great joke about ten minutes in that lets you know there is method in Ros’s meekness.
Hallard’s script rocks the boat of expectation with a deftly plotted yarn — and there are some increasingly audacious twists.
It starts with mild-mannered, middle-aged history teacher Richard having an awkward Zoom date with Crowe’s nervous spinster, Rosalind
His Richard has a shiny face and a sweet, gooey smile, and even manages to conjure up a shocking pink blush at one point. No mean achievement on cue.
But it’s Crowe who sets the pace.
The butter-wouldn’t-melt expression of the former Philadelphia cheese girl camouflages her glorious faux pas about a dead relative, Richard’s ex-wife and an assumed connection between lesbians and gardening.
And in the best British style, it’s all delivered with a poker face.
The all-star updating of Oscar Wilde’s cautionary tale The Picture Of Dorian Gray, meanwhile, features a stellar cast including Joanna Lumley, Fionn Whitehead, Stephen Fry and Russell Tovey — all performing a rather less cuddly set of stereotypes.
And I’m not sure how Wilde would feel about having his souffle wit translated into the comparatively ugly, four-letter vernacular of Henry Filloux-Bennett’s script.
Whitehead plays dilettante Dorian, who’s given an anti-ageing app by his tech-buddy (Tovey), in lieu of the portrait that ages on Gray’s behalf in Wilde’s tale of a Faustian pact.
Fionn Whitehead plays dilettante Dorian, who’s given an anti-ageing app by his tech-buddy
Dorian himself now appears as a 21-year-old English Literature student, who uses the app to become an ageless lockdown ‘influencer’ — only one stuck in a grotty Northern bedsit, not in sunny Dubai.
Dorian may look good, but his hit Instagram videos are surprisingly dull; even when he starts cooking up conspiracy theories.
The whole thing is presented in the style of an investigative documentary with Fry, as a reporter, firing questions at the characters from a laptop.
One is Lumley, as society fundraiser Lady Narborough. Another is Alfred Enoch, as Dorian’s posh friend Harry Wotton — a louche toff in a floral jacket and cravat.
It’s a hell of a line-up; and someone at the Barn Theatre does seem to be very well connected.
The drama is presented in the style of an investigative documentary with Stephen Fry as a reporter
Perhaps it’s Tamara Harvey, whose production is a slick combination of live action, CCTV and social media shots, with some texting and Zoom calls thrown in for good measure.
Unlike her previous digital hit at The Barn, the spoof whodunnit What A Carve Up, there’s little mystery here — just a slightly glib set of characters, making for a somewhat sluggish 90 minutes.
There are also three musicals worth taking a squint at this week, too.
Black Matter (fane.co.uk, March 24-31) stars the indecently talented Giles Terera, who won an Olivier Award in 2018 for his role as Aaron Burr in Hamilton.
It’s an hour of easy-listening protest songs on piano and guitar — imagine Lionel Richie doing Billy Bragg.
Treason (treasonthemusical.com; March 26-28) is a valiant attempt to Hamilton-ise the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
Ricky Allan has written a terrific fusion of traditional folk and modern pop, sung by an impressive crew including Daniel Boys, Oliver Tompsett, Bradley Jaden and Lucie Jones. (Though if the show goes into full production, the plot will need a bit more bang.)
And The Band Plays On (sheffieldtheatres.co.uk; until March 28) is a social history of Sheffield, sketched with stories by Chris Bush (Standing At The Sky’s Edge).
The tales — which are about an imagined apocalypse, women’s football and the Labour Party (RIP), among others — are narrated by five women, including Maimuna Memon.
They also form the titular band, singing songs first performed by local alumni including the Arctic Monkeys, Def Leppard and Jarvis Cocker — and it’s these that provide the show’s real steel.
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