This new audio play by Tony Lee brings together two (fictional) icons of Victorian England – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, that perverse satyr, sensualist and scoundrel whose own narcissism led to a Faustian pact to make him immune from the ravages of time. This seasonal release – part of a new range of full-cast audio productions from Big Finish entitled The Confessions of Dorian Gray –is set in 1912, with Holmes now a somewhat elderly gent while Gray is seemingly as sprightly as ever despite his dissolute ways.
The Plot: In December 1912 Dorian Gray returns to London where his portrait is stolen and held to ransom. In order to get it back, he is blackmailed into committing a terrible murder. And the only man who can help him is the man he has to kill: Sherlock Holmes.
“London misses you, Mr Holmes”
The play opens in a melancholy mood at the funeral of Lord Henry Wotton, the man whose hedonistic worldview (the character was patterned by Wilde upon himself) indirectly initiated what would become the corruption of Dorian Gray. While there he spies a woman who looks exactly like Sybil Vane, the young girl who killed herself after Dorian threw her over, some thirty years ago … Holmes is also thinking of the past as he returns to 221b Baker Street for the first time in 9 years to celebrate Christmas with his brother Mycroft. He too seems someone from his past, someone who he is certain must be dead …
“I’ve seen that man before, not in the flesh but in photographs, photographs of a young man yet to become the villain he was destined to be. That man looked exactly the same as Professor James Moriarty ten years before we ever met” – Sherlock Holmes (Nicholas Briggs)
The plot is set in motion when Dorian, back in London after an absence of several years, arrives at his hotel and discovers that his previous painting, the one that ages while he does not, has been stolen. Instead he find a message – the get the picture back he must commit a murder
“By midnight tomorrow, as Christmas Eve becomes Day, I must kill a legend” – Dorian Gray (Alexander Vlahos)
Dorian asks Holmes to help recover the painting but the detective is unimpressed by impossible sounding story, even when it becomes clear that the two men have in fact met before. In Wilde’s original novel, the artist Basil Hallward, painter of the eponymous picture, is killed by his subject. Dorian blackmailed Alan Campbell into helping him dispose of the body. In this play it seems that Holmes was called in and concluded, erroneously, that Campbell murdered Hallward – and that when this was reported in the press, the man killed himself.
“And this is how it ends – staring down the barrel of a revolver”
Ultimately Holmes agrees to help Dorian even though he refuses to accept the supernatural explanation for his unchanged appearance so many decades after their previous encounter. As in his previous performance in the role, The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner by Jonathan Barnes, Briggs proves particularly adept at playing the older and wearier Holmes now resisting both the pull out of retirement and possibly the lure of ever-lasting life in a development reminiscent of Robert Bloch’s classic tale, ‘Yours truly, Jack the Ripper’, which is explored more fully in the other episodes of The Confessions of Dorian Gray, which leaps from decade to decade (they are available for download at only £2.99 each from Big Finish here). This is part of an encounter with James Moriarty, who it turns out may not have died at Reichenbach Falls after all, which is particularly well-played, all leading to an explosive climax and a satisfactory (if slightly wordy) conclusion that proves that all was truly not what it seemed. This is a thoroughly entertaining excursion into Victoriana which comes across as pretty authentic despite occasional anachronistic lapses (the phrase ‘yae big’ was definitely not in common usage) – a working knowledge of the original Wilde novel is a help, but not crucial to one’s enjoyment.
To order this production for a mere £5 as a download visit the Big Finish website at: www.bigfinish.com/ranges/released/the-confessions-of-dorian-gray
Author Tony Lee’s blog can be found at: www.tonylee.co.uk/
Director: Scott Handcock
Producer: Scott Handcock
Script: Tony Lee
Music: James Dunlop
Sound Design: Robbie Dunlop
Running time: 64 minutes
Cast: Alexander Vlahos (Dorian Gray), Nicholas Briggs (Sherlock Holmes), Rupert Young (James Moriarty), Rebecca Newman (Sibyl Vane), Richard Nichols (Alan), Seán Carlsen (Billy), Wilf Scolding (Receptionist), Lorna Rose Harris (Maid), Antonio Rastelli (Messenger), Alexander Griffin-Griffiths (Man), Sophie Melville (Woman)