Review: The Picture of John Gray, Old Red Lion

“We are living in an age of unrivalled beastliness” 

The life of Oscar Wilde has been much explored, not least in the theatre with De Profundis and The Judas Kiss just two recent examples, but CJ Wilmann’s new play The Picture of John Gray takes a different angle on the familiar events by focusing on others who were in his circle and how they were affected by the scandal that engulfed the writer and eventually claimed his life. The fresh-faced and devout poet John Gray was one of those men, a lover of Wilde’s and reportedly the inspiration for the character of Dorian Gray, and Wilmann’s play adroitly explores this slice of gay life anew.

Though Wilde is oft mentioned, he never actually appears here, his presence is merely felt and as Patrick Walshe McBride’s youthful Gray burns brightly and briefly in Oscar’s life, he spends more and more time in The Vale, the artist’s studio of couple Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon that formed the salon for the group. There, his head is turned by the French Jewish literary critic Marc-André Raffalovich and an intense relationship forms between the two, right at the moment that the Bosie-led scandal explodes and lands Wilde in court and then in jail. Continue reading “Review: The Picture of John Gray, Old Red Lion”

Review: The Winter’s Tale, Crucible

 “There’s some ill planet reigns”

Sheffield’s autumnal Shakespeares have become something of a yearly institution and a regular fixture in my theatregoing diary. This year sees The Winter’s Tale arrive at the Crucible with something of a less starry cast than in previous years (although Barbara Marten and Claire Price were both strong draws for us) and the return of director Paul Miller to the series, after his Hamlet back in 2010. Sad to say though, this was not for me – the atmosphere hampered by a sadly sparse matinée audience but the production also full of choices that just didn’t appeal.

Shakespeare’s late play relies on the careful balancing of two halves – Sicilia’s dark tragedy and Bohemia’s pastoral vibrancy, the pain of simmering jealousy against the freshness of new love. But though they must complement each other, they need to effectively stand alone as well and Miller struggles with his opening act. The sparseness of Simon Daw’s design places the focus strictly on the interactions of his actors, but his preferred method of placing them at some distance from each other on the large stage estranges them too much, both from each other and from the audience. Continue reading “Review: The Winter’s Tale, Crucible”