Kip Williams directs the work with his usual brand of genre defying theatre – using an array of cameras and an assortment of screens to capture every moment, every gesture, every tense gaze that is performed.
The audience’s focus is constantly swept from one viewpoint to the next, with enough surprises and technological trickery to hold their attention as the two hour run time rolls by.
Eryn Jean Norvill delivers a formidable performance. Tasked with the challenge of performing every character in this adaptation, Norvill doesn’t just rise to the challenge, no, she hurls herself into every character with such talent that she makes it look easy.
And for Norvill it is. She is in her element and enjoying every single moment – you can see her ecstatic excitement each time she stares straight down the barrel of the camera.
She is, of course, exhausted as she takes her much deserved standing ovation but she does so with an air of accomplished pride. Simple put, no one else could have pulled off the performance that she brings to the stage night after night.
Norvill’s performance is supported by the vast tech crew who whiz around the space, staying one step ahead of the action, and keep the work moving. From camera work to moving set pieces, large and small, to swift costume changes, the team keeps the pace and is undoubtedly the reason that this work works at all.
This production deserves all the praise it has thus far received, however there were moments during the play where I found myself not just lost but entirely disconnected to the story. I can’t help but wonder, why this story?
What was it Williams hoped to add to it? I ask, as his adaptation seemed to lack heart – if I had not previously read the novel there was very little in the text to hold onto. Norvill absolutely connects the text’s dots, but with her performance at the helm, I fear the text simply has no soul.
After the polarising year that was 2020, a work of this magnitude certainly does fill the heart with hope for the year ahead. There is no question that this work should find itself on the stage again in 2021, and is definitely a work that would be at home in theatres around the world (we can only hope!).
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Roslyn Packer Theatre, 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay (Sydney)
Performance: Thursday 17 December 2020 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 9 January 2021
Information and Bookings: www.sydneytheatre.com.au
Image: Eryn Jean Norvill stars in The Picture of Dorian Gray – photo Dan Boud
Review: Gavin Roach