The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, adapted by John Osborne


HK English Speaking Union
  • Tue 18-09-2018 7:15 PM - 2 h

Room B

Refreshments are available at the Fringe Club.


ESU/ Fringe Club Play-Reading for September 2018

Date, time and place: Tuesday 18 September @ 7.30 in Colette’s (upstairs at HK Fringe Club)


The play this month:



The Picture of Dorian Gray 

by Oscar Wilde, adapted by John Osborne


This was Wilde's first novel ,which went through various versions, but we will read it as a drama version created by John Osborne, himself a well-established playwright and author of Look Back in Anger, The Entertainer and Luther among other important 20th century British plays. Osborne’s play-text - shorter than the original novel - concentrates on the dialogues and Wilde's witty epigrams, while retaining the essential plot elements. The play tells a story of murder, intrigue, and decay of the body and soul - a long way removed from the popular view of Oscar Wilde as a writer of witty social comedy in his own plays. It is also difficult to avoid the view that Dorian Gray is heavily autobiographical in a metaphorical, if not literal, sense in view of what we know about Wilde’s relatively short life.


Dorian Gray himself, is the subject of a  portrait in oils by Basil Hallward, an artist who is impressed and infatuated by Dorian's (male) beauty. He believes Dorian's beauty is responsible for the new mood in his art as a painter.Through Basil Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, and he soon is infatuated by the aristocrat's sensual worldview that beauty and sensual fulfillment are the only things worth pursuing in life. Suddenly conscious that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses the desire to sell his soul to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade.  His outrageous wish is granted and Dorian pursues a sensual life of varied and  amoral experiences, while staying young and beautiful as, all the while, his portrait ages and records every ethical transgression he commits.


The main idea for the story came from an actual episode in 1884. Wilde used often to drop in at the studio of a painter named Basil Ward, one of whose sitters was a young man of exceptional beauty. Wilde happened to say, "what a pity that such a glorious creature should ever grow old." The artist agreed, adding, "how delightful it would be if he could remain exactly as he is, while the portrait aged and withered in his stead." Subsequently Wilde named the painter of the portrait in his story, Basil Hallward. Hallward is portrayed as a deeply moral man in stark contrast to the other two main characters in the story, Dorian Gray, a beautiful narcissistic young man, enthralled by the new hedonism and Lord Henry Wotton, imperious aristocrat and  decadent dandy, who espouses a philosophy of self indulgent hedonism. The Picture of Dorian Gray was written as both a gothic and philosophical story in 1890 and proved extremely controversial in its day with its compelling atmosphere of mystery and horror and its shocking Faustian pact theme. In a subsequent version Wilde added a preface in defence of the rights of the artist to create “art for arts sake”, concluding with the famous statement, "All art is quite useless."


Please do join us at 7.30 at The Fringe Club for the September play-reading. We look forward to seeing you again or meeting you if you are a new play-reader and wish to participate. You will be very welcome.


Facilitators:  Julian Quail; Mike Ingham


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