It’s not often that a rehearsal room has a stage. And an audience bank. And theatrical lighting. But as I walk into the Giant Dwarf Theatre in Redfern, that is exactly what the company of Dorian Gray Naked has.
The converted old railway workers’ music hall is a wonderful gateway to the past and is somewhat of an unknown jewel in the rough. Librettist, Melvyn Morrow, is the father of The Chaser’s Julian Morrow, who runs the space, and they have been gifted the use of it for the rehearsal period (payments to be made in instalments of babysitting, I have been told).
Rehearsals are only a few days old, but already associate choreographer, Danielle Evrat, has set a large chunk of choreographer Nathan Wright’s blocking. Time is tight and everyone must work efficiently. As this is an independent production, and choreographers like Wright are expensive and in demand. He is not present. He works remotely (from the United Kingdom) through Evrat to bring this production to life with long and in-depth video calls to recap and make adjustments. It is at this point that I join them, to bring you a snapshot of the rehearsal process and give a feeling of what the show has in store.
I love new writing. It gives performers in this country that rare feeling of not knowing what to expect. And so it is with this; within seconds of raising the camera to my face, Blake Appelqvist, who plays Dorian Gray, has his shirt off, followed swiftly by his trousers showing that this production does not shy away from its title. (The Aussie Bum undies… well, just let’s leave it at that.).
Composer, pianist and co-star Dion Condack sits behind the piano quietly watching the proceedings. The fact that this is a blocking rehearsal means that his input is limited. “The best thing I can do today is be attentive and patient” says Condack, “Phrase by phrase, word by word, we start, stop, demonstrate, rehearse, rehearse in context, from the chorus, without piano, with piano, from the verse, with the lead in, from the top“. However, he does get his fair share of fun within the production.
The show is a new take on Oscar Wilde’s classic play of similar name: A Picture Of Dorian Gray. But unlike the original, Dorian’s sexuality mirrors Wilde’s. As Morrow says ‘I’ve always thought that given Wilde’s double sexual life, he probably wished Sibyl was a pretty young boy.’ In this version, Dorian is given a fictional afterlife as he turns the tables on his creator, Wilde, who is himself metaphorically stripped bare as Dorian uncovers his intriguing secrets.
The piece itself is finished; the script and music printed and neatly bound. But, getting a new show up on its feet is always a tumultuous time. There is a sense of groping in the dark, discovering day by day the journey that the piece will take for both actors and creatives. Each step, new and exciting. And in Dorian’s case… bare-footed… amongst other bare revelations.
The production opens today (30 January 2019) and runs through until 16 February at Limelight on Oxford. Tickets are available on Limelight’s website: limelightonoxford.com.au.
All photos are copyright David Hooley (Instagram @davidhooleyphotography)