Torment, hedonism, vice and a damned soul, all hidden behind an agelessly beautiful and fragile facade. This is the perfectly sinful recipe which is destined to be revealed to the world as Groningen prepares to rip the veil off a new play, Dorian, premiering at the end of September.
Fans of The Picture of Dorian Gray will immerse themselves in a modern new retelling of the grim tale and will be swept up in the infamous debauchery of the titular character. Though, theatre-goers beware, for they might find that the mirror may reveal their darkest most hidden secrets and desires for all to see.
To celebrate the upcoming play, Van der Velde bookshop, in association with the Theater Company Noord Nederlands Toneel (NNT), hosted a Wilde livestream on September 20th in their store with a panel of guests stars such as University of Groningen Oscar Wilde Specialist Kees de Vries, and the playwright of Dorian, Robbert van Heuven. They discussed a variety of subjects ranging from Oscar Wilde’s personal life, to his work, and to the play itself and its development.
The store was buzzing with the excited chatter of passionate audience members from different walks of life all hoping to vividly discuss, debate and delve deeper into the mind of the man behind the book.
This event drew one particular fan into its midst. Alexa Rodriguez described her particular attraction to Oscar Wilde. “He is my favorite author of his generation. I even based my bachelor thesis on him and his works. He was flamboyant; a dandy and had a way he presented himself to the world.”
Arent Da Haas agreed on what he thought made Oscar Wilde and specifically The Picture of Dorian Gray so interesting. He was fascinated when he found out about “the transformation from the book and how the story was transferred into the modern context of the artworld.”
“Oscar Wilde was a literary superstar!” exclaimed panelist Kees de Vries. In an interview with The Stand, he declared: “Dorian gray is not portrayed negatively in the book. The idea that limitation due to morality is corrosive is one of the key themes of the book.” He added, “Oscar Wilde venerates lying for lyings sakes, playing with artificiality and that has some kind of artistic empowerment.”
“Oscar Wilde always impresses and still sells today,’’ commented Inge Abbring, events coordinator at Van der Velde Akerkhof.
Miriam Zuidema, an employee of the bookstore, looks forward to these kinds of events. She explained that she “loves seeing the faces behind the book and the reader reactions to launches or lectures.’’
Whilst the event was a clear success from the point of view of NNT, Van de Velde and the guests, a little sentiment of disappointment lingered amongst the public. “I had hoped there would be more of a discussion between the speakers and the audience, not so much a presentation of the play,” explained Da Haas.
Guy Weizman, the artistic director who commissioned the play, elaborated on his passion for the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray: “I was inspired by the book and I fell in love with it. I thought it would be a good idea to set it in a modern setting because a historical one is not very interesting”.
The irony is not lost on the public. Dorian tells the story of a young art student influenced by an art gallerist. “It will not be at all a faithful retelling of the book. The audience can expect a few surprises”. Whilst that may be true, art remains one of the primary themes of the play.
Dorian premieres on September 29th at 8:15 pm at the Stadsschouburg on Bloemsingle.