Review: The Confessions of Dorian Gray / Writers: David Llewellyn, Gary Russell, Scott Harrison, Scott Handcock, Joseph Lidster / Director: Scott Handcock / Starring: Alexander Vlahos, Steffan Rhodri, Lorna Rose Harris, Katy Manning, Hugh Skinner, David Balckwell / Publisher: Big Finish / Release Date: Out Now
The Confessions of Dorian Gray has been something of an experiment for Big Finish – a low-priced series, available as a download-only, weekly series. It’s also very quickly established itself as a part of my weekend, with a new episode available every Friday at midnight over the last five weeks.
The series takes its lead character from Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray – a tale of a young man who sells his soul to remain forever youthful, while a portrait of him ages instead, baring the scars of Gray’s every sin as a reminder of his darker side. Foreknowledge of the novel isn’t important for the series, though. It’s enough to know that Gray is immortal, and feels little shame.
The character first appeared with Big Finish in an episode of September’s Bernice Summerfield: Legion box set, showcased in three short vignettes – each one set in a different place, and with a different style and tone. The series takes a similar format; each of the five episodes is set in a different time and place, spanning from Paris in 1900, London 1941 and 2007, Singapore 1956 and Whitby in the mid-1980s.
The stories are best thought of as half-hour paranormal stories, with one foot in the ‘horror’ camp, dealing with strange supernatural forces, and the deeds of Dorian Gray himself. Each week takes over from the last as my personal favourite, with such a varied selection for stories. They easily lend themselves to a re-listen after just a few days, and I’ll no doubt be listening to them all again before too long.
Praise must be given to Alaxander Vlahos as Dorian himself. He clearly relishes the role, and gives a suitably melancholic performance just right for the character. The stories have given us a chance to see different sides to Gray’s character, and Vlahos has yet to falter in his performance. He’s never better than when Dorian is deprived of the upper hand - a situation showcased perfectly in my personal favourite of the season, Episode Four, The Heart That Lives Alone.
It’s hard to pick Vlahos out as a stand-out performance, though. In every episode, he’s surrounded by a fantastic cast, with great performances from Steffan Rhodri, Lorna Rose Harris, Hugh Skinner, David Balckwell, and Katy Manning, who shines in a wonderfully understated role.
While the decision to not use any form of theme music means the episodes can sometimes end a bit abruptly (never more noticeable than in the first episode, which I downloaded a second time just to check if the file had been corrupted), there’s very little to criticise about The Confessions of Dorian Gray.
I’m thrilled that Big Finish have recorded a 60-minute Christmas special for release next month, which teams Gray up with Nicholas Briggs’ Sherlock Holmes, and I hope that they’re not slow to announce a second series.
At £12.99 for the entire season via subscription through Big Finish, The Confessions of Dorian Gray is a must-have. One of the best things Big Finish have produced in years.