Watching C. J. Wilmann’s play The Picture of John Gray, it’s hard not to wonder how much of it is true. Quite a lot, it turns out. John Gray, a poor boy from Bethnal Green, grew up to be a poet, inspired Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (maybe), had an intense relationship with the writer (definitely), had relationships with other men and became a catholic priest in Edinburgh.
The play starts at the Vale – bohemian, at the right side of shabby and surprisingly domesticated – where Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon entertain friends. Oscar Wilde is expected but never turns up, the absent shadow / present ghost of the play. John Gray does turn up, as do Bosie and Andre Raffalovich. What starts as an evening of petty spats among love rivals and fragile egos turns into something much more interesting: the shadow of prosecution and burning desires (whether it’s love, god or beauty) become a heady mix and a worthy battleground for the souls of men. Continue reading