Review: The Picture of Doreen Gray

Doreen Grey

It comes to us all, that moment when you realise that the hourglass of your life has more sand in the bottom half than the top. Despite all the pills, potions, undulants and peels there is no real way to halt the merciless march of time and be young again. Or is there…?

National treasures Lip Service Theatre made their return to Blackpool Grand with The Picture Of Doreen Gray, a play that explores the notion of getting back to your youth, literally. Lip Service are no strangers to, how should I put it, ‘radical reinterpretation’ of the classics of literature for theatre. Indeed thirty years of it. Withering Looks, Desperate to be Doris and last year’s hugely successful and woollen Inspector Norse stand among many others.

Doreen Gray (yes, not Dorian) is a radio host with a falling stock. Age is tapping on her door, memories of her youth are brought forth at a school reunion and her portrait she painted at sixteen comes to life and gives her an offer she can’t refuse. Doreen and the painting swap places and the world seems as her oyster. Knowing adverts for face creams and fibre flakes chime with the audience, they even have an ‘Ooo-Denon’ jingle which gleaned a full house of laughs. It’s great stuff, we had as much fun watching as they obviously had on stage.

The two woman leads head a cast of walk on techs/actors (with a locally sourced chorus) and they are picture perfect, throwing themselves into the madcap fun with such enthusiasm that the odd clunky line or bit too Alan Partridge-esque style banal radio show trope are instantly forgotten and the show thunders along at a merry pace.

Ingenious technical staging is flawless throughout and screens spin and become paintings, adverts or motorway signs seamlessly. The integration of what could have been a multi media nightmare for the cast and crew become comedy gold with their screen twirling and restaging.

Plot-wise, Doreen comes to realise that youth ain’t what it used to be. She slowly learns that growing old either gracefully or not is the way of the world. Her old mind is at odds with her young body and a lesson learned via dealing with ‘yoof’ at a festival is among the jarring experiences which eventually end up in a frankly bizarre bucket of frogs based murder.

The whole affair is so jolly and cheeky that you can’t help but be charmed, entertained and whisked along in hilarious manner. With Doreen Gray, Lip Service give us another top notch dollop of fun and first class theatre. I can’t wait to see what they conjure up for next year.

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