A new shade of Gray at Oran Mor

HAS the Dorian Gray story ever been more relevant?

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Daisy (Janette Foggo) and Dolores (Marcella Evaristi) can't understand how their friend Dorian can stay looking so youthful
Daisy (Janette Foggo) and Dolores (Marcella Evaristi) can't understand how their friend Dorian can stay looking so youthful

Oscar Wilde's classic tale about the transient nature of beauty and youth tells how a young man surrenders his soul in order to remain young forever.

It's a story about recognising inner beauty, about being happy with what we have, and gracefully accepting the ageing process. And in these Botox-injecting, face-lifting, hair transplanting days, the story sits perfectly.

That's why writer actor Marcella Evaristi has come up with The Friends of Miss Dorian Gray - described as 'an ingenious and witty retelling of Oscar Wilde's story' - for this week's Oran Mor offering.

This time around Dorian is a female, and the story tells of two middle-aged friends, Dolores (Marcella) and Daisy (Janette Foggo) who puzzle over the unblemished looks of their strangely youthful contemporary.

The gorgeous Miss Dorian Gray seems to have been gorgeous forever.

Dolores remains deeply sceptical of Dorian's explanations as to her unlined face. And to add to the mix, the new story features a blackmailed scientist and a murdered painter.

"The play is a dark comedy," says Glasgow-born actor Tom McGovern, who plays two characters in the drama.

"It's funny, modern-looking - not Gothic at all - and tells a really good story."

Tom plays a dermatology professor who is working on perfecting anti-ageing techniques.

"He's not ready to test them on humans but his partner, Stuart, has operated on someone he shouldn't have.

"What we discover is that my character becomes frantic because his partner has been lured in by Dorian. And the professor is virtually being blackmailed.

"Meanwhile, Dorian is pretending she's been getting treatment, which backfires on the professor. But of course, it's not true."

Tom's second character is the artist Basil Horwood, who painted Dorian 30 years earlier. We learn Horwood has a retrospective going on in Paris and wants to get back the painting of Dorian.

"What we also learn is that he was in love with Dorian, this creature who has been leading men a merry dance."

Tom, who's regarded as one of Scotland's most powerful theatre actors, as shown in shows from Private Lives to Twelfth Night, admits the play has been difficult to pull together.

"It's been pretty hairy," he grins, recalling last week's run in Aberdeen.

"The script kept changing for the first week, so it's been seat-of-the-pants stuff. But we got it sorted and audiences really seemed to enjoy it."

The actor, who once starred in TV comedy series Atletico Partick, believes the play really resonates today.

"It's a funny play, but it does tackle serious themes that are so relevant.

"It's about our obsession with youthfulness, trying to achieve an impossible look.

"It's about how you should be comfortable in your own body."

He adds: "Remember that song Keep Young and Beautiful? It's really a slap in the face to the older generation. It says you can't be beautiful unless you're young.

"Then again, we're all aware we live in an ageist society. So we've got to do what we can to hold it together as long as possible."

Tom, who lives in Perth, says the pressure on actresses to look young is particularly acute.

"The belief is that men age better and women certainly suffer from that, although we all want to work as long as we can.

"I travel up and down the country a lot in theatre. I live in digs that aren't the greatest. But I've been lucky. I've been able to do what I wanted to do for a long time. And I've done so much."

"Yet, you're always aware that even though you've been on the stage for 25 years, there's a feeling nowadays that TV drama directors won't take the chance on you unless you're a big name.

"Times are tougher. What I do know now is if you're going into this business you've got to be able to do the lot, from Shakespeare to panto, from drama to comedy. If you don't you won't survive.

n The Friends of Dorian Gray, Oran Mor, until Saturday.

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