Have you ever been alone on a train? It’s quite peaceful. At first. It’s better in the day, but when it’s dark and you begin straining your eyes against those eerie artificial lights, you begin to get somewhat paranoid. It’s true of any place that should be filled with people. It’s especially true right now, while the world suffers from the COVID-19 pandemic: high streets, meeting places, and churches are empty, and the only individuals you’re likely to see might be either wearing masks and gloves or glaring conspiratorially over their shoulder at you, or all of the above.
That’s where we find Dorian Gray: that is, both seemingly-alone on a train, and during the Coronavirus lockdown. He’s travelling home on the 21:17 from Paddington Station and yes, he’s immortal. There’s a painting in an attic that might suffer from a high temperature and continuous cough, but Gray himself would be fine. That doesn’t stop others being suspicious of him on the journey to Paddington. At least he’s by himself on the carriage. Right…?
The Confessions of Dorian Gray is a singularly important release in Big Finish’s vast array of titles: it was made in four days. Scott Handcock wrote it, Alexander Vlahos starred as Dorian, and Robert Harvey produced the music and sound design… in four days – all while in isolation during the UK’s lockdown.
It’s an astonishing achievement, and a comment on our love of art; our need for self-expression. Whether it’s consuming or making, Isolation demonstrates that stories always find a way. This one came about because Handcock and Vlahos separately had ideas to use the current situation to return to Dorian Gray, a range that had concluded in 2016 (with a brief reprise in 2019’s The Lost Confessions). Isolation isn’t the beginning of a new run for the franchise, however: this is a brief oasis that’s gritty and dark. Vlahos used his own phone to record his parts, and sure enough, this tale is told purely by him. The soundscape, though, gives the piece a wonderful atmosphere, and is best enjoyed with the lights off.
If you’re familiar with the series, you won’t be surprised to hear this isn’t a cheery little run-around. It certainly won’t cheer you up in any traditional ways. But you will come away from it feeling a great sense of appreciation for the human spirit and its ingenuity.
And you don’t even need to know the series well, or indeed at all. Isolation no doubt gains greater importance because it’s attached to a bigger beast, but the audio works just as well without the Dorian Gray name. It’s just a decent drama.
The story itself is only 16 minutes long, but you’ll want to listen to the follow-up chat between Vlahos and Handcock because it’s a joy. They’re enthusiastic and joking – two mates having a chat in difficult times. It’s as enjoyable as the narrative itself.
What more can you ask for from a free release?
Download The Confessions of Dorian Gray: Isolation, completely free of charge, from Big Finish now.