The Picture of Dorian Gray, Old Laundry Theatre
Theatre in its many and wonderful manifestations depends always, ultimately, on the performances of the actors.
Strip away the stage, the lavish sets, the intricate costumes, the curtains, and what you have left is theatre in its purest form.
So what a delight to experience – rather than merely watch – the remarkable Box Tale Soup theatre in action at Bowness’ Old Laundry Theatre. They came here as part of a tour for just one night to perform Ocar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray in this intimate and unusual setting whose reputation has been built simultaneously on Alan Ayckbourn and Peter Rabbit (whose fantasy-world visitor attraction shares the building.)
It is Box Tale Soup’s own adaptation of the Gothic novel which has Wilde at his most playful, decadent and outlandish, and played entirely by just three actors – along with their own hand-made puppets.
The core of the company comprises Noel Byrne (Henry) and Antonia Christophers (Dorian), who created Box Tale Soup and now work for the company full time. They bring in regular collaborators, such as Mark Collier who plays Basil, and has also been involved with the company since it was formed.
It’s a gripping and compelling performance, subtly switching from evil to humour, using a staccato choreography to create mood and time.
Box Tale Soup has won awards for its blend of puppetry, physical theatre and traditional performance, taking their work to as wide an audience as possible. In addition to their normal touring schedule, they take performances and workshops
into schools and institutions, particularly those with limited or no access to the arts.
Recent examples include Gone – a new show created in collaboration with Music Action International and refugee music collective Stone Flowers; a performance of Alice for children at Great Ormond Street Hospital; performances at Treloar’s School for disabled young people; and The Wind in the Willows at The Butterfly Garden in Cheltenham, a project for people dealing with disablement of any kind.
The final two shows in this tour are The Wind in the Willows, Fri 16 Nov, 7pm at Shilbottle in Northumberland, and Sat Nov 17 at Staindrop, Co Durham.