Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Confessions of Dorian Gray: The Spirits of Christmas

My first real exposure to The Confessions of Dorian Gray was last months series 4. Since then I have pretty much caught up, I only have a few episodes of series 3 to catch up with. You could say I was mesmerised by season 4, drawn in by the singular charm of Mr Gray and his sad lonely immortality – and you would be right. But series 4 was only a very small part of the picture – because in series 1 there was a rather beautiful story called The Heart That Lives Alone (available here) in which Dorian meets, for want of a better description his soul mate – a vampire called Tobias Matthews, played by Hugh Skinner. They have a beautiful heartfelt and moving relationship – two old old men, young beyond their time, sharing their immortality together. It ends, as it must in a bittersweet tragic way, in a way that only their relationship could.
But Toby came back – Love it seems is too strong to keep them apart and as these two special Christmas releases begin, Dorian and Toby have almost become a domesticated old married couple, happy and cozy and looking forward to Christmas – a nice quiet Christmas with whisky and frolics and Playstations. It was never going to happen…
This set is two distinct separate stories and give us the events that lead up to and take place at Christmas 2015 for Dorian and Toby
Desperately Seeking Santa by Tim Leng
Early December 2015 a suburban couple are found dead, horribly mutilated whilst putting up the Christmas decorations. A few nights later the killer breaks in to Dorian and Toby’s bedroom and tries to steal Dorian’s eyes – the thing is, the killer is none other than Father Christmas, albeit a strange, decrepit, smelly, horrific Father Christmas, but it’s Father Christmas nonetheless – and even though Toby saves Dorian this time, Old Saint Nick promises he will be back for Dorian’s eyes…
This is a classic, gruesome Christmas story, very Victorian gothic in its construction – and given gravitas and atmosphere by the note perfect narration of Colin McFarlane who fills in the gaps in the story with a cold seriousness with a touch of the avuncular – it really is the narration that gives the story that certain “Christmassy” feel that is so difficult to achieve – because the story of an immortal serial killer who may or may not be Santa is about as far away from Christmas cheer as you can get. Vlahos and Skinner are wonderful as Dorian and Toby – their relationship that spans the ages is deep and true, there is genuine love between the soulless immortal and the Vampire. Is it doomed for a second time, can love really transcend immortality? You will have to listen on to find out…
All Through the House by Alan Flanagan
It is Christmas Day and Toby has his Playstation – Dorian wants to stay in to watch Eastenders, but Toby persuades him to go for a Christmas night out. It really was a night where Dorian should have said no to temptation.
They end up in the mythical Brigadoon Hotel. Thing is this hotel disappeared almost a century ago and only appears on Christmas Day, and if you stay there longer than midnight then you are trapped forever.
This is a different take on a Christmas ghost story – it is more of a modern horror using the “Haunted Hotel” genre as used in The Twilight Zone or the film 1408. Dorian and Toby are trapped, with figments from their past like Dorian’s sister Dora (a brilliant Katy Manning) and with each floor in the hotel offering a fresh Hell for the lovers to suffer: World War II, The Lucitania, The Tundra, as they try to get to floor 13 and to the mysterious man in charge. They really should have stayed at home and watched Eastenders.
A much more adventure bound quest story (albeit set inside a hotel) but with a doom-laden atmosphere and a sense of creeping dread that even a Christmas Eastenders cannot match. This story will have a profound effect on Dorian for a very long time to come.
Two very different stories told in very different styles – one body horror, the other psychological horror, one literary the other filmic, both played with utter conviction from the cast Vlahos and Skinner who make a surprisingly sweet couple despite their innate arrogance. David Warner is chilling and somewhat pathetic as Father Christmas, Gabriel Woolf will make your blood run cold as The Man Upstairs – and the rest of the supporting are played by the great and the good of Big Finish. This is a real Christmas treat, different in style to the main series, more traditional in its storytelling, but no less enthralling for it.
9/10.