The Confessions of Dorian Gray (cd review).
1. This World Our Hell written by David Llewellyn
Dorian goes to meet an old friend and encounters evil. We are introduced to Dorian Gray. Not a fictional character as Oscar Wilde has led the world to believe but a living, breathing, beautiful man who keeps his painting secreted in the attic as he continues to enjoy eternal life with no consequences.
At thirty minutes, ‘This World Our Hell’ has to persuade us to fall in love with Dorian despite his professed amoral outlook, maybe remind us who the character is and then follow the storyline, no mean feat which it does very well. Along the way, it manages a tongue-in-cheek plotline which uses our popular knowledge of Oscar Wilde and all this on audio only.
It is the skill of the writer, director and the actors along with high production values that all this is made possible. The seductive tones of Dorian draw us into his world and makes us hunger for more and the story which plays on our knowledge of Dorian Gray and Oscar Wilde is both horrific and powered with pathos. All in all, a great introduction to a character with potential.
2. The Houses In Between by Scott Harrison
As the Second World War reaches its height, Dorian discovers he is not alone as those who dwell in between the houses seek him out. This story focuses on Dorian and his life of excess and sin. As the forces of retribution close in, ‘The Houses In Between’ poses an interesting dilemma of whether we choose to empathise with Dorian or stand on the sidelines.
We get a little more background here and some expansion to the character and motivation of Dorian.
3. The Twittering Of Sparrows by Gary Russell
Transferring the action to a foreign clime, this brings another dimension and some family interest to the continuing story of Dorian Gray. As Dorian arrives in Singapore, he is looking to escape his inevitable notoriety but there is also someone there he needs to catch up with. Dorian reminds us as he travels of all his untold tales. Much like the Doctor and Sherlock, there are an infinite number of stories that could be told about this ‘Immortal Beloved’.
Dorian is there for an intervention, a simple majong game holds the key to an age old mystery and a final reckoning.
An evocative and captivating story this is enhanced in particular here by the sound design that calls up the far eastern setting. This episode is particularly moving as family ties are finally broken. Again the writing and production, along with guest actor Katy Manning, make this an exceptional experience.
4. The Heart That Lives Alone written by Scott Handcock
Can it be that Dorian has finally found love? The beautiful and enigmatic Tobias intrigues and rejects Dorian. Can they ever be together and what about Dorian’s ghastly secret?
An intriguing tale does not disappoint and the dramatic conclusion again belies the shortness of the story. Guest actor Hugh Skinner as the mysterious Tobias helps carry the story along to its shocking conclusion.
5. The Fallen King of Britain by Joseph Lidster
Set in the City of London, this is a tale of heights and depths where Dorian, who has joined the banking world, experiences the dark forces as the crash approaches.
Dorian is top of the world. He’s working in high finance in the heady heights of London’s trading markets but there’s a crash coming and only the strong will survive. As his workmates succumb, what will stop Dorian suffering the same fate?
I like the contemporary setting and the reminder that bankers are human, too.
6. Ghosts Of Christmas Past by Tony Lee
This is a lovely cheeky crossover with the other famous character that Big Finish has done so much to promote.
Dorian Gray arrives in London for a friend’s funeral and disturbed to see someone at the graveside he believed to be dead many years ago. Receiving a threat to his continued hedonistic existence, he seeks out Sherlock Holmes. Although Sherlock has been retired many years, he, too, has returned from his beekeeping existence to his London lodgings. The pair finds they have much to discuss despite Sherlock’s disbelief at Dorian’s ‘condition’. For Sherlock is also visited by the ghosts of the long dead.
This is an excellent tale that draws the threads of the two fictions tightly together and allows ample opportunity for the character of Sherlock to be an integral part of the story. It’s not afraid to throw us a few sideways swipes as well and not all questions are answered leaving Sherlock to ponder that having eliminated the ‘everything else what remains must be the truth’, unpalatable as it may be.
The six stories that have thus far been released show that a combination of dedicated writers, actors and production team offer a known character and importantly an out of copyright character has a lot of life that can be breathed into it. Catching a rising star like Alexander Vhalos, directly as ‘Merlin’ ends, is also a bit of a coup. He has the voice for this but also the looks and skill that should take him far and high. Meanwhile, we can ride the coat-tails of success and enjoy the velvety and seductive tones of Dorian as he takes his first steps to immortality.
‘The Confessions Of Dorian Gray’ is from Big Finish. Directed by Scott Handcock and written by various authors from the Big Finish stable, this is a great addition to the output of this independent studio and hopefully will supply us with more spooky and intriguing tales in the coming year.
(pub: Big Finish. 6 chapters each 30 minute download. Price: Download: £ 2.99 (UK) each)
cast: Alexander Vlahos, David Blackwell, Alexander Griffin-Griffiths and Sophie Melville
check out website: www.bigfinish.com