Dorian: The Musical

Dorian the Musical opens with the evocative sound of a death knell ringing at a funeral, seamlessly integrated into the music for the first song. This opening scene explains that Dorian's father has died and that he was raised alone. It was clear from the outset that the musical deviates from the plot of the novel it draws its name from. The scene ends with the funeral attendees taking selfies in the graveyard using 20 year old phones, an attempt to modernise the setting. Coupled with a club scene featuring Amy Winehouse's music, the show appears to be set around 2005.

The costumes, by Isabella Van Braeckel are a blend of pseudo-Victorian and modern goth styles, featuring classic lacy poet shirts paired with PVC snakeskin trousers. This mix effectively obscures the time period, though a wristwatch seemed out of place; a pocket watch might have been more fitting. Nonetheless, it wasn’t a significant point in the show.

One of the standout characters is Victoria Wotton, played by Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson. Although Victoria is only briefly mentioned in the original novel, Linnie Reedman (Director, Book & Lyrics) has successfully transformed her into a memorable character. She quickly became one of my favourites in the show.

Set in a recording studio, Dorian is portrayed as the next big thing. While this setting complements his lifestyle, the excessive swearing and drug use, though occasionally humorous, often felt like an overzealous attempt to appear 'cool.' If you're a teen goth or enjoy seeing a pretty boy in guyliner, this show is must-see.

The portrayal of the famous portrait in the show was somewhat confusing. It was depicted as a digital photo edited to look like a painting, a detail explicitly explained to the audience how it had been edited that way. However, it was inconsistently referred to as both a painting and a picture. Simplifying it as either a picture or a portrait would have been clearer.

There were several mispronunciations of famous texts and plays, and references to Orpheus and Eurydice prompted audience comparisons to Hadestown. Despite these minor issues, the performers effectively filled the thrust stage, a challenging setup for many productions.

After the first act, the narrative became more confusing. There was no clear attempt to age the actors, despite references to Dorian's youth and Baz being gone for years. Fabian, Sibyl’s younger sister, mentioned not remembering her sister as she was too young when she died, which was perplexing given her role in the club and it being Dorian’s 27th birthday. However, Megan Hill’s portrayal of Fabian added much-needed physical comedy and energy, particularly welcome in a 2.5 hour show (including the interval).

Musically, the show was eclectic. At times, it resembled The Halloween Town Band from Nightmare Before Christmas; at other moments, it echoed famous chart-toppers that stuck in my head. One audience member described it as Calypso-Rock. The music was enjoyable, and I appreciated the innovative approach. The cast was clearly talented, although the choreography was somewhat limited, except during a few contemporary dance and ballroomesque moments.

This show was reviewed on the 10th July 2024 at Southwark Playhouse Borough where it runs until the 10th August 2024.  Tickets available here: DORIAN: The Musical - Southwark Playhouse

Review written by Valentine Gale-Sides


Photo credit: Danny Kaan

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