Selfie (National Youth Theatre)

Our critics rating: 
Thursday, 9 October, 2014
Review by: 
Mark Shenton

The National Youth Theatre does a laudable thing of offering an alternative kind of practical, on-the-job training to a group of 15 aspiring actors every year by establishing them as a rep company who work together for eight months of free talent development that's then followed by a West End residency in which they all appear in a season of three plays.

But it does them no favours with Selfie, a random and self-conscious makeover of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. I know that any actors may, from time to time, be confronted with scripts that are not polished or not ready, and it will be their job to struggle on and try to make sense of them. But it's a burden too far for these inexperienced actors to bear, and it turns out that in addition to performing here, they've had to co-devise the work with playwright Brad Birch.

The result is a formless mess that offers a bleak, boring portrait of the "me" generation revolving around a desperately shallow crowd of hipsters made up of aspiring artists, models, writers and singers. Mainly, though, they do a lot of intensive naval gazing, as Dorian (now a woman, not a man) finds that she doesn't age but that her picture, saved to an iPad (what else?) does the aging for her.

I felt like I aged, too, visibly by simply watching it. Or maybe it was just the fact that the company, aged 18-25, just made me feel old.


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