Page last updated at 18:04 GMT, Thursday, 21 August 2008 19:04 UK

Dance show makes festival history

By Pauline McLean
BBC Scotland arts correspondent

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Extracts from Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray

A show directed by one of the UK's most successful choreographers has become the Edinburgh International Festival's best selling dance event ever.

Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray has already sold 11,212 tickets for its world premiere at the festival.

The show has broken the festival's previous record of 10,146 tickets for Mark Morris's Hard Nut in 1995.

The production opens at the King's Theatre on Friday and runs for 10 performances until 30 August.

Matthew Bourne may have stopped dancing himself in 1999 but he is still taking the lead with his dance company New Adventures.

As they stage the final rehearsals of the new show Dorian Gray, it is Bourne's voice which booms from the darkened auditorium of the Kings Theatre.

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Extracts from Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray

"That needs to be faster, the music is wrong, can we take it from the first scene again," he says.

It is an important show for 48-year-old Bourne, who first made his name with an all-male Swan Lake and has been raising eyebrows in the often straight-laced world of ballet ever since.

This is the first show which is not a big family-friendly extravaganza - think Edward Scissorhands and his lush version of the Nutcracker.

Based on the novel by Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, it is a dark tale of obsession, most definitely for grown-ups.

If you can have anything you want, it can make your mind do strange things
Matthew Bourne
Dorian Gray choreographer

There's lots of gender swapping of characters - Lord Henry Wooton becomes Lady Henrietta, a high-powered magazine editor; Dorian's love interest Sibyl becomes Cyril, a celebrity photography.

The whole story is brought bang up to date as Dorian becomes a much sought after 'it' boy.

"To update it and use modern imagery from the world of photography just felt right," Bourne said.

"What you become as a celebrity is very interesting. If you can have anything you want, it can make your mind do strange things. It can create monsters."

It is apt that the show is opening in Edinburgh where the man many believe inspired Dorian Gray once lived.

John Gray was an aspiring poet and a member of Oscar Wilde's inner circle.

Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray
Dorian's love interest is a celebrity photographer

But according to historian Michael Turnbull, he tired of Wilde's decadent lifestyle and moved to Edinburgh.

"He didn't want to be a butterfly on the edge of Wilde's social circle, he wanted something more meaningful so he moved to Edinburgh, became a Catholic, and then a priest."

"I think Wilde really liked to play around with his friends' names. Father Gray - later Canon Gray - was nothing like the character in the book."

For Bourne, Edinburgh is an important test for his most experimental work to date.

The show, which opens at the King's Theatre is one of the most hotly anticipated at this year's Edinburgh International Festival.

But Bourne said it was yet to be decided whether it would tour on from here.

Not that New Adventures is short of work.

Most of their back catalogue is still out there on tour - whether Dorian Gray is another instant classic, we'll have to wait and see.




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