‘The Confessions of Dorian Gray’ review: Big Finish’s audio tales conclude with Season 5

After four years of consistently high quality drama, Big Finish has called time on The Confessions of Dorian Gray.

Appropriately, Big Finish released the fifth boxset of four hour long stories on Halloween and the range has not gone out with a whimper.

Avoiding the trap of self-indulgence, the four stories bring back many of the characters and actors that made this series so vital and essential listening for its many devotees. At the end of this final set (and the extras confirm there are no plans, no possibilities) the only conclusion the listener can reach is that both director/writer/producer Scott Handcock and Alexander Vlahos are brilliant. Just don’t tell them.

The four stories spin the normal convention of the series on its head with stories narrated by secondary character rather than Dorian. In effect he is a guest character in his own life. Subtle but inspired.

First up the prolific Guy Adams gives us possibly the raunchiest story in the range with One Must Not Look at Mirrors telling the story of Oscar Wilde meeting Dorian from Oscar’s point of view. Of course it isn’t that simple and as Oscar descends into paranoia we begin to doubt his recollections and the confessions of those around him. Mixing the darkest of Victorian tragedy with the story leaves the listener unsure as to what is real, dark delusion or the supernatural.

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The mood changes in Roy Gill’s tender and moving story Angel of War setting Dorian in the trenches and charts his love affair with James Anderson. It’s a simple enough summary but hides a pair of moving performances and a vividly painted (Neil Gardner’s excellent sound work is part of this) setting. There is also a supernatural element in the so-called Angel of Mons and a chance to learn what it means to love an immortal.

Lighter tones abound in David Llewellyn’s The Valley of Nightmares takes us to Hollywood and the late 1940s. It’s a return for Sarah Douglas as Dorothy Parker in a romp of a detective story with very dark undertones. Underneath the copious quantities of champagne and glamour something is stirring, something getting ready to make an unwelcome appearance. Dorian and Dorothy make a comic duo of detectives and the story exposes elements of human nature in vivid and unpleasant detail.

Everything comes to an end in Scott Handcock’s own Ever After. The synopsis gives away little: London, 2016. The end.

Scott has penned a tale that celebrates the series and takes place as much in the mind of the listener as the words of the cast. It’s artistic, clever and moving, like the range as a whole. Further detail would reduce listening pleasure; feel reassured it is as strong as any of Dorian’s other stories.

Extras: A CD of behind the scenes interviews with cast and writers.

5star

Released in October 2016 by Big Finish.

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