Local actor Peter Craze returns to Greenwich Theatre as director of the first stage adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray since John Osborne’s TV dramatisation in 1976. The production will donate 30% of the box office receipts from the performance on 31 May to Stonewall, the gay rights charity.
Peter sees the plays themes as very relevant today: ‘The corruption of a youth is the important thing for me,’ he says, ‘particularly Lord Henry feeding the boy what was known as the yellow book, leading on to opium and all the rest of it. It’s similar to what some kids seem to be suffering today on social media.
‘We showed it to an audience in Gravesend with a large group of sixth formers – it was on the syllabus there – and they were riveted by it. They were watching a period piece but they completely identified with the corruption of this youth.’Peter – who has lived in Westcombe Park with his actor wife Illona Linthwaite for 36 years – previously directed The Governor at Greenwich Theatre and acted in Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, presented by the European Arts Company, is on a 10-week tour and will be at Greenwich on May 29, 30 and 31.
‘[The production] has been adapted from scratch,’ says Peter. ‘It’s very authentic and what’s interesting for me is not only the repression of the Victorian era, which includes Oscar Wilde being jailed for homosexual activities – what they called ‘gross indecency’ – but the fact that it was published as early as 1890 in Lippincott’s Magazine in New York.
‘He had to rewrite it for publishing here because Lord Henry, of course, was a depiction of Wilde himself. The book was also prophetic because one of the characters was shot and killed, and years later the brother of Wilde’s lover, Lord ‘Bosie’, died the same way.
‘It’s a difficult play to stage because so much of it is in the imagination, particularly the boy looking at the ageing picture. But I think we’ve got it and Guy Warren-Thomas as Dorian Gray is just terrific. There’s a very nice ending which works theatrically, but I won’t give it away!’
Peter, who is 69 in August, was principal of the Drama Studio London – training Emily Watson among others – for nine years up to 2012.
The Picture of Dorian Gray runs Friday 29 May and Saturday 30 May at 7.30pm, and Sunday 31 May at 6pm. Tickets £18.50, concs £16 (30% of the box office receipts from the performance on 31 May will go to Stonewall, the gay rights charity). To book call the Box Office on 020 8858 7755 or see greenwichtheatre.org.uk