The Confessions of Dorian Gray is a longstanding series of audio dramas from Big Finish Productions. The latest episode, “Isolation”, was conceived, written, recorded, mixed, produced and released in less than 5 days. It was written by Scott Hancock and stars Alexander Vahos as Dorian Gray of Oscar Wilde fame.
The story begins with the Dorian on a train headed for home. It’s the middle of an epidemic, the story being set in the present day, and Dorian is complaining about the odd nature of a man who normally keeps the world at arm’s length finding himself forced to isolate from those around him. He finds it even stranger that he is virtually alone on the train, calling his own cell phone to describe how he has begun to think he is being watched. Dorian is in a strangely vulnerable position, unsure of himself and increasingly upset by the strange times he is living in. The fact that he is virtually immortal does not change this, although he comments on the absurdity of the situation.
His use of the phone call as a coping mechanism also allows the production to cover its lack of a recording studio for this piece. The result is quite effective, a not quite expected sound quality that gives a feeling of claustrophobia thanks to the use of a recording device that is rarely outside of arm’s reach. It also helps to humanize a character who is not exceptionally strong or mystically gifted but is nonetheless significantly less at risk on a purely physical level than the vast majority of humanity.
This recording is short, less than 20 minutes, but quite effective as an example of the kind of storytelling one can expect from this series. It is entirely Dorian’s thoughts, and the strangeness of the world he lives in is reflected through his frame of mind. The fact he feels alone is illustrated by the way he considers whether or not he really has a home, and if he feels comfortable stating it as such. The chances seem high that he is imagining his problems at first, but the fact such a microphone is hardly a precision instrument supports the idea that the listener may simply be not quite hearing what Dorian hears.
Themes of being alone play a great part in this story, of course; however the question of what that really means plays an even greater role. While Dorian is more or less alone on the train, he is also separated from his fellow man in a more general sense, having kept them at arms length for years for personal reasons and now finding the bulk of humanity doing the same. This is a new experience for the traditionally attractive and overall affable Dorian, and his ruminations upon that fact play a greater part than the potential supernatural menace in the overall nature of the tale.
As an introduction to the series there are certainly worse episodes. This story makes the character’s current situation clear enough, and the question of the supernatural is answered clearly enough by the series title that exposition is not really called for in giving elements of the backstory. Chronology matters little in the Confessions of Dorian Gray, as the stories are very much not told in chronological order. Dorian Gray’s status as a bisexual male is not mentioned — sexuality in general is not germane to this particular adventure — though the series certainly doesn’t shy away from it elsewhere.
Included with the story itself is a short interview in which the author and actor discuss the making of this piece, the difficulties due to the relative lockdown in London, and their opinions on the result. It’s a nice addition, welcome but certainly not required.
Overall The Confessions of Dorian Gray “Isolation” is a very nice little horror story which builds upon a man’s need to be a part of something, and how removal from that, even for an individual already somewhat separated, can be hard to handle. The supernatural element is subtly introduced and interesting, building steadily and creating a proper sense of suspense in a short period. Quite easy to recommend both to new listeners and old.
The Confessions of Dorian Gray “Isolation” can be listened to here.
(Big Finish Productions 2020)