Stirling University’s Drama Society take on a modernised and gender-swapped version of Oscar Wilde’s classic – ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray.’ I was joined by Claudia Edwards, Django Marsh and Ross Batey to discuss the upcoming production.
The story follows a young Dorian. She seems to have it all – wealth, beauty and adoration. However, this all begins to unravel as she is led to pursue an intense hedonistic lifestyle which has dire and destructive consequences on the world around her.
Adapting the novel to the stage play has meant editing and changing some content to fit the medium. I asked the production’s director, Claudia Edwards, what this process was like.
“I think changing the script has been both fun and challenging. We kinda did that as we went along but I also decided to make that collaborative with the cast and ask them what they thought would work best” Claudia explained.
“I’ve read the book and a lot of it is directly taken from it. A lot of the original story is in it. But we’ve modernised it now so it’s not set in the same time frame because I thought a lot of the lines wouldn’t make sense if it was gender-swapped.”
Django plays a male version of Sybl Vane – talented actor in poverty who falls for Dorian’s good looks. He added “I think the power dynamics change with the gender-swapping as well. Like Dorian with Henry – she wants to kinda be like him and then she goes to dominate loads of characters and male characters like Sybl.”
In the original story, the superficial socialite parties conveyed the obsession with youth and beauty in the Victorian era which dominates Dorian’s world. Is this culture really as present in the 21st century?
“I definitely think the theme of vanity translates quite well to the modern setting with the whole social media age.” Ross said.
“It seems like we’re paying attention more to people’s individual mental health and it’s all really about Dorian’s mental health”
Ross plays the imperious aristocrat – Lord Henry Wotton who pressures Dorian to abandon her sense of decency in pursuit of pleasure. I asked him what it was like to perform this pompous, larger than life character.
‘It’s really really fun to play. He’s got some of the best lines I think. It’s where I think it shows the most Oscar Wilde-like dialogue. He’s got no moral code. There’s some nasty parts, there’s some funny parts and I don’t know which ones I prefer.”
After performing in last semesters A View From the Bridge, Claudia has transitioned from actress to director for this play. I asked her how it felt being the one calling the shots.
“Oh man. Really weird. It was good but – it’s strange being in charge because a lot of the people in the society I’m quite friendly with so it was weird taking a managerial role over your friends.”
“But it was really fun as well like I did direct some of Scenes by SUDS last year. It was a much smaller scale like I only had three actors on stage so to go from that to this was a big change but I’ve enjoyed it immensely and I wish I could do it again.”
Now into their second semester, the SUDS crew have only become more seasoned and experienced performers with every project.
Django explained “I think the more you act with someone the easier it is to flow in a scene with them because you know how they’re gonna react or what tropes they have. Some people always improvise in the same way and its nice to find that rhythm. You can only get that from doing shows with people.”
If you want to experience Dorian’s eerie, hedonistic descent into madness, The Picture of Dorian Gray comes to Macrobert’s Arts Centre on the 18th and 19th of February. Tickets on sale now.