A contemporary take on the decadent classic, young innocent Dorian Gray becomes a global music sensation overnight and (with a little help from his friend, mentor, and prospective lover Harry) is seduced by the delights of the high life and living for whatever feels good. Not wanting his blissful youth to end, Dorian makes a wish that his portrait would be the one that ages, while he remains youthful - little does he know a deal with the Devil comes with consequences...

It is difficult to say more about the plot of this piece, as none of it is especially clear. A script lost in itself that is somehow far too long and yet in desperate need of more story-telling, we stumble through the beats of a well-known tale clinging on as best we can to a generally muddy narrative. Key moments such as the point at which Dorian makes his fatal pact are completely lost in what feels a generally muted production (other than the opening of the second act which is a welcome injection of vigour). The monotonous and repetitive songs peppered throughout do little to assist this aspect of the show, though there are a few impressive singing voices to entertain us. The modernisation of the original text feels forced and jarring, with up-to-date references to 'YouTube followers' feeling shoehorned into the timeless story. 

Aside from excellent use of the small playing space, the direction of the piece seems severely lacking, especially in a text that lends itself so well to a carefully stylised aesthetic, and none of the characters have any depth to them. Even Dorian's complex and sinister journey feels more like a stroppy child pushing boundaries (and no, not in the robbing-of-innocence way you might hope for). Such a key part of this story is the intense romantic, sexual, and interdependent relationships; unfortunately, there is little to no chemistry felt between any characters throughout. 

While most of the cast offer gorgeous vocals - it is unfortunate that they accompany unmemorable and unimaginative songs - the acting performances as a whole are generally fairly bland and noncommittal, perhaps doing what they can with a clunky script (some genuinely sharp lines appear but all-too infrequently), with one notable exception: George Renshaw's portrayal of Harry Wotton is deliciously slick, dark, and tantalising. He brings intrigue and honesty to a man who finds himself in over his head, and his more vulnerable beats are a joy to watch.

All this being said, there is something in this musical that suggests it has potential to become a camp cult classic further down the line. 

Dorian The Musical runs at Southwark Playhouse (Borough) until 10th August.

Review: Penny Lane