Monday, 30 November 2015

The Confessions of Dorian Gray Series 4

Where to start? where to start? Hmmm… The beginning was a long long time ago, Oscar Wilde wrote a book called The Picture of Dorian Gray, which went on to become a classic. In this book a young member of the upper classes called Dorian Gray, who is the epitome of male beauty, has a portrait painted – he muses that he would like to remain as un-ageing as the portrait, and he gets what he wishes for. As Gray leads a more and more debauched life it leaves no mark on him: the drinking, the indulgence in drugs, the womanising – all leave no mark on Dorian  - whilst his portrait bears the brunt of his excesses and grows more and more monstrous. The story is a fiction written by Oscar Wilde, but what if it wasn’t? What if Dorian Gray was real? What if he were a peer of Oscar Wilde and Wilde just wrote a sort of biography disguised as fiction? that is the theory that the Confessions of Dorian Gray presents and now in its fourth series we have another eight stories, another eight interludes from the immortal Dorian Gray.
Dorian is real, he lived and still lived and these are his confessions – and the title “confessions” is very apt – these audio stories are unlike any other series the Big Finish have produced.
First of all there is no title or closing theme music – now in itself that isn’t a big deal, but these stories don’t feel like stories – they are a lot more intimate than that.
Secondly, I have a feeling that Mr Gray is not the most reliable of narrators – that the stories he is relaying are merely his take on circumstances, that with hundreds, maybe thousands of years of hindsight from when these events happened to when he tells the story, certain embellishments may have been made.
No – this is a very unique series, in fact the listener is made to feel like a confessor or a psychiatrist as Gray relays his tales of terror and debauchery. The eight stories are in no particular order, they are not consecutive, they flit back and forth throughout Dorian’s long long life – it is almost like Dorian is in the room with you and is unburdening himself, and the stories all have one thing in common – they all deal with the theme of loss. Because as long and as varied as his life is, being immortal Dorian has to deal with loss – sometimes people die, sometimes they move on, sometimes assignations are only fleeting, people and times move on – parties, substance abuse, alcohol and womanising loses its lustre, but Dorian Gray goes on.
And bringing Dorian to life is the one and only Alexander Vlahos – narrating seemingly random tales from Dorian’s life he imbues Gray with a weariness of a man who has lived too long, a man trying to fill in eternity when life has lost its taste where people he has me sometimes become memories and then forgotten altogether – a man so bored of life that in one episode he books himself into “a very nice private hospital” to get his appendix removed just to remove the boredom of existence. Vlahos captures the weariness perfectly and at different points in his life he really does want to do the right thing (or maybe this is just as the unreliable narrator remembers it) but throughout his life he is plagued by demons of one form or another – metaphors for his guilt at the life he has led or literal monsters is up to the listener to decide but the demons are there.
Some audios are good to be listened to with friends or family – The Confessions of Dorian Gray demands  to be listened to as a solitary experience, because for the duration of the box set YOU the listener are the confessor and Dorian is talking just to you – give it a try episode one The Enigma of Dorian Gray is available free HERE and you will see what I mean.
I recommend that these reminiscences are accompanied by a glass of fine Shiraz, with the lights dimmed and for you to lose yourself in Dorian’s confessions – I for one will certainly be catching up with the earlier stories and I recommend that you do too. An uncomfortable, intimate and soul-bearing experience, superbly performed and leaving a feeling of loss and melancholy that maybe just one more glass of Shiraz may not take away… 10/10.