Interview with Matthew Bourne

August 17, 2008

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Matthew Bourne, the most talented choreographer of his generation, famous for his all-male Swan Lake, talks about his new ballet, a contemporary retelling of Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray – the hottest ticket at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Why did you choose Dorian Gray?

It’s been on the list of things I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I’ve constantly been put off it because the characters are so nasty. Then I realised that we love a lot of stories where the heroes are villains; we still like them and want them to succeed.

Do you want us to dislike Dorian Gray or feel sorry for him?

If you met him, you would be charmed by him, even with the knowledge that he ends up killing people. That’s how he gets what he wants. He’s a bit like the characters in American Psycho or Dexter; they’re killers, but they are charming. They’re not monsters.

Why the modern setting?

The story seems very relevant to now; the obsession with youth and retaining youth, this facade of what’s in front of the camera, and what goes on behind; how it can ruin your life and turn you into a monster. The death of Heath Ledger made me think about that a lot. Also, I was at a party last year and Orlando Bloom was there. He was just so ordinary-looking, and yet to many people he’s the most beautiful man in the world. I want to try to show how you create this image.

How do you see the portrait?

I don’t like supernatural things, so rather than this gothic idea of a portrait in an attic getting steadily more grotesque, we’re using photography to show Dorian becoming an icon as a billboard model. You will see a disintegrated billboard later in the show, but the piece is more about how his soul is destroyed.

This piece first appeared in Observer Review

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