Matthew Bourne is now the world's most popular choreographer, an international hit since the success of his Swan Lake with male swans. The advance ticket sales for his new Dorian Gray have already made it the most highly attended dance event in the Edinburgh Festival's history.
It updates Oscar Wilde's fable of the picture in the attic to the modern fashion world. Some characters have changed sex: the corrupting Lord Henry is now Lady H, while love interest Sybil Vane has become Cyril. Dorian is now a model, the face of a new perfume. "Immortal, pour homme" announce the billboards.
As the story darkens, the poster smudges and rips, a tear turning "immortal" into "mortal". A doppelgänger starts to haunt Dorian, watching or taking over as his relationships turn cruel and then violent. In a brilliantly creepy moment, Dorian takes his double's hand, resigned and almost tender. Then he smothers him, an act that causes his own death.
Although Bourne is a deft storyteller, his choreography isn't about steps. His gift is for showing character through movement. How his dancers stand and look at one another matters more than footwork.
There are far too many pure dance scenes in Dorian Gray, all padding. Models pose or go through generic jumps and turns. Dorian's romantic dreams of an affair with Cyril are tedious. When Bourne shows us the reality, it's awkward, much less dancey, but gripping.
Lez Brotherston's designs can set up a scene or a character in an instant, and Terry Davies's atmospheric score moves from sinister hums to plucked mandolin. The cast are terrific. Richard Winsor is a pouting Dorian, switching in an instant from vulnerability to viciousness. Michela Meazza is all elegant lines and angles as Lady H, and Jared Hageman is a quietly sinister doppelgänger. The corps may have too much posing to do, but they come to life when they spot Dorian: something they want, something they need.
To 30 August (0131-473 2000), then touring to 27 September (www.new-adventures.net)
A version of this review has already run in some editions of the paper
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies