HEREIN BE SPOILERS!
Just back from Sadler's Wells and Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray. I had a knackering day at work and was wearing in a pair of new shoes, so I took a cab there (walking was agony) and damn near dozed off a couple of times on the way. Dorian Gray has had mixed reviews and I began to experience that familiar doing-kulcher-on-Friday fear of falling asleep.
I didn't fall asleep.
As we took our seats, someone in the row behind us said, "get ready for some raunch". It wasn't raunch. It was sexy, though, in a weirdly (or perhaps deliberately) hollow style: slick surfaces containing relatively little by way of emotional engagement. I don't mean this as criticism; I actually really liked the mood created. Although there were nods to here and now (a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Jonathan Ross/Four Poofs pastiche and Damien Hirst mirrorball skull), it made me think of that spell in the late '80s/early '90s when male bodies came to the fore in advertising - buffed, plucked, waxed male bodies, shot in ever-so-tasteful black and white. Denatured Mapplethorpe, Bruce Weber shooting jockey shorts for Calvin Klein, Madonna's Sex beefcake a-voguing.
At some point, the monochrome glossiness itself became erotic, detachedly so. My favourite segment was, I think, the bit in the first half when (the lovely Richard Winsor's) Dorian and the photographer who's discovered him engage in a sort of predator-and-prey camera tango. I realised that the camera shutter sound itself is quite alluring - I was reminded of Morrissey's The Harsh Truth Of The Camera Eye - and the exhibitionist/voyeurist to-and-froing was intriguing. By the interval, I was feeling quite touchy-feely and other people seemed the same: lots of kissing and nuzzling in the bar. I was convinced I was floating around with hugely dilated sex-pupils. Big time sensuality.
The second half charted Dorian's descent into absent-minded orgies (with men and women - as ever, casual bisexuality seems to be shorthand for moral dissolution), escalating mutilation imagery and rampant narcissism (signalled by a giant lightbulb-festooned letter D à la Elvis Comeback Special).
I could've done without the doppelgänger strand. I mean, it was interesting enough but a bit fuzzy, conceptually, and muddied the whole deteriorating-portrait thing (Dorian's double remained pristine as he grew increasingly bloodstained). I read it as his conscience/superego, from which he detached when he allowed his tiny dancer to die at the end of the first half. That said, some of the doppelgänger scenes were genuinely creepy - making me think of this:
("You're the devil in me I brought in from the cold". I still love the breakdancing policemen.)
The music was excellent, teasingly reminiscent of all manner of '80s delicacies. I heard hints of Yoko Ono, Bryan Ferry (and the vampiric Lady H made me think of the long, lithe models of his Slave To Love period), even Ryuichi Sakamoto. I suppose that could be perceived as distracting but, for me, it all contributed to the evocation of a particular era.