Promotional image for The Picture of Dorian Gray (Image: Sydney Theatre Company)
Promotional image for The Picture of Dorian Gray (Image: Sydney Theatre Company)

Eryn Jean Norvill, trailed by several stage hands and three camera operators, walks onstage and sits behind a rectangular screen that hangs vertically at the centre of the stage. The crowd falls into an instant hush. The screen comes to life and we see Norvill as the camera does -- luminous in white and blonde against the black.

She begins: "The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses ..." Norvill as narrator describes Sir Henry Wotton smoking and, from off-screen, she is handed a lit cigarette. She turns to a second camera, the screen flits to the new angle, as she takes on Wotton's languid, faintly villainous purr. She turns to a third camera, and as she does so drops her right hand and raises her left, holding a paintbrush. Now she is the fussy and open-hearted painter Basil Hallward, her voice and demeanour shifting in a moment.

Thus opens The Picture of Dorian Gray, in which a young man of uncommon beauty effectively sells his soul so that his portrait will wear his age and moral degradation while he stays pristine -- physically, at least. If the opening sounds like a high-wire act of performance, production and stagecraft, well, that's the least of it. It's a one-woman show in which Norvill plays 26 characters, via costume changes, interactions with footage of herself, sprints from one section of set dressing to another, and an array of iPhone filters.