Dorian Gray hit show takes on the world

·2-min read

According to artistic director Kip Williams, staging The Picture Of Dorian Gray each night is as challenging as landing a 747.

There are six giant digital screens rigged to fly across the stage, five operators marshalling live cameras, and three mobile phones recording footage during the show.

They are all focused on one actor, Eryn Jean Norvill, who plays more than two dozen different characters in a tour-de-force that has played to standing ovations every night in Sydney and Adelaide.

The show will premiere in Melbourne on Wednesday before heading to Broadway and the West End.

Showing reporters some of the technical tricks of the performance ahead of the opening night, Mr Williams said while he was creating the show during COVID lockdowns, he never imagined it would tour internationally.

"There was something about having had this period where we hadn't been able to do what we love to do, that made us all come together and say we want to make something bigger and bolder and more exciting than we'd ever done before," Mr Williams told AAP.

Oscar Wilde's novel follows a young man wishing for eternal youth who lives a life of meaningless luxury in a world obsessed with beauty, while a hidden portrait of him reveals that he is truly ugly.

It's a story that speaks to the preoccupations of contemporary life, according to Mr Williams.

Ms Norvill's challenge in telling that story each night is immense, with more than 200 marks onstage she must hit precisely for the filmic elements of the show to succeed.

Sometimes things do go "slightly haywire", Mr Williams said, but Ms Norvill brings the crowd along for the ride.

"If anything, it makes it more exciting for the audience because they're in on the journey of making this extraordinarily ambitious thing happen every night," he said.

One of the most impressive parts of the show, according to Mr Williams, is the curtain call, when the whole crew joins Ms Norvill onstage, revealing the army that has brought the show to life.

Designer Marg Horwell said the show takes just as much from cinema, photography, and even reality television, as it does from stage traditions.

"It's actually less influenced by theatre and more by what we're seeing in the world at the moment, especially on our computers and in lockdown," Ms Horwell told AAP.

With the coronavirus a constant worry for the cast and crew of every show playing at the moment, Dorian Gray has been blessed by the theatre gods, with Ms Norvill and backup actress Nikki Shiels so far unaffected, Mr Williams said.

The Picture Of Dorian Gray is at the Playhouse at the Arts Centre in Melbourne until July 31 as part of the Rising festival.

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