THE CONFESSIONS OF DORIAN GRAY SERIES FIVE

PrintE-mail Written by J. R. Southall

Four years on from This World Our Hell, Scott Handcock’s reimagining of Oscar Wilde’s infamous antihero finally bows out in this fifth series of Confessions, albeit this time with a twist. Rather than eight half-hour plays narrated by Mr Gray himself, here Dorian takes a back seat for four double-length instalments, three of which are told from the perspective of characters that have been an important part of his journey. It’s an interesting development that lets us see him through the eyes of his friends and associates – and by extension, allows us to come to terms with our own understanding of and partiality for the character – and one which reaps emotional dividends. Series Five is a much more affecting journey than we would probably have been given to expect.

One Must Not Look At Mirrors is an occasionally shocking, rather metatextual tale in which Gray’s biographer, Oscar Wilde, becomes fascinated by the work of Jack the Ripper. Guy Adams’ episode slowly draws the listener into a story of obsession and depravity, the would-be author’s unwitting and unwilling sacrifices reflecting Gray’s readiness to forfeit normality for a bigger adventure. It is a surprisingly disturbing opening to the set and one which places Gray’s lack of consideration out in the open. Roy Gill’s Angel of War pre-unites Gray with James Anderson in 1915, in what is ostensibly a 'mission' narrative with a potentially supernatural twist. But that’s just the setting for an encounter of a different kind, one that humanises the monster that is Dorian in contrast to the Great War that rages in the background. Each of these two episodes ends on a purposefully incomplete note, the ambiguity in the resolution to the plot reflecting in the character study of a man who can live forever.

Dorothy Parker returns for The Valley of Nightmares by David Llewellyn, a Hollywood set story of devil worshipping and a fast-talking 1940s detective story, Dashiell Hammett meets Dennis Wheatley. This third episode injects an element of fun into the set, albeit not at the expense of illuminating more of Dorian’s character. Lastly, Scott Handcock’s Ever After wraps things bang up to the present, a very final chapter in the eponymous libertine’s story and one that plays tricks with his entire history. The closing sequence is as chilling and enigmatic as the moments leading up to it are agonising and traumatic.

The four episodes are discrete entries taking place throughout Dorian’s life, rather than consecutive and contemporary parts of a bigger story, with the result that rather than creating a longer but perhaps less significant narrative event, instead Series Five paints a picture of Dorian’s entire existence through the people and activities he finds diverting. While the accents and characterisation might occasionally be surprising, the acting is exemplary and the four stories add up to a thoroughgoing and consummate portrait of a tragic character, one whose promise is squandered for the sake of entertainment, paradoxically living up to his creator’s premise while becoming a guilty pleasure in his own right. As Dorian himself might have had it, the very definition of jolie laide.

Extras: Behind the scenes interview, out-takes, music score

THE CONFESSIONS OF DORIAN GRAY SERIES FIVE / DIRECTOR: SCOTT HANDCOCK / WRITER: GUY ADAMS, ROY GILL, DAVID LLEWELLYN, SCOTT HANDCOCK / STARRING: ALEXANDER VLAHOS, STEFFAN RHODRI, DANIEL BROCKLEBANK, SARAH DOUGLAS, DAVID BLACKWELL, TRACEY CHILDS, JO JOYNER, BERNARD HOLLEY / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (FROM BIG FINISH), NOVEMBER  30TH (GENERAL SALE)

 


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