Jonathan Wrather, star of Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Casualty, heads the cast in a brand-new production of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray which comes to Darlington Hippodrome in March. Jonathan tells What'sOn about the play, the tour and returning to the theatre stage.

Jonathan, tell us about the play and the tour.

The play is Sean Aydon’s new adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s, The Picture of Dorian Gray. It’s a fascinating story that explores the nature of passion, temptation, free thought, repression, excess and narcissism in society! Sean’s adaptation has a contemporary or timeless feel to it. Certainly its themes have a modern relevance. It’s not a cautionary tale as such but a kind of tragic horror story.

Tell us about the part you play – Lord Henry Wotton – and where he fits into the story

My character, Lord Henry or Harry as he is referred to leads a charmed life of excess. He is charming, erudite and seductive. Lord Henry is wealthy and privileged but is morally on the periphery of the society of the day.

On being reluctantly introduced to Dorian Gray by his old friend Basil an artist who is painting Dorian’s portrait, he proceeds to impress upon him his own beliefs – mainly the virtue of and the duty one has to follow one’s natural instincts and desires, however dark or sinful. We see Henry take Dorian on, partly in an unspoken Pygmalionesque type of challenge with Basil, but also in a strangely paternal way as well.

For those that don’t know the novel you could say that Dorian’s meeting Lord Henry has tragic and horrific consequences for both Dorian and Basil.

What are the challenges of playing a character like Lord Henry?

He has to be charming, seductive and supremely sure of himself; but there’s fear and disappointment as well, there’s a duality to his character.

What drew you to the play?

It was a story I was only loosely familiar with having never read Wilde’s novel. But when I read this adaptation it was dark and dangerous and dealt with epic themes but in a kind of claustrophobic situation. There’s an ambiguity as to what happens in reality and what human hearts and minds are capable of.

The Northern Echo:

The play is fundamentally about youth and beauty do you think there is a resonance to the current “selfie” climate we live in?

Yes. Social media allows us to present our best-looking selves to the world, sometimes obsessively. That’s one core element to the story but there are other layers to it as well.

When and how did your passion for drama and theatre begin?

When I was at school, but I remember having quite a vivid imagination as a young child – I guess like all children do except I didn’t grow out of it! I grew up loving stories and reading. It’s a real thrill now to be able to read to my own kids. Visiting the theatre happened a bit later it wasn’t a revelation as such but I knew I liked it, I had no idea what it meant to be an actor.

What do you think you’re most known for in terms of roles on stage and screen?

I’m known from time to time for some of the TV I’ve done, it’s usually the last thing you’re seen in on screen. Although I’m always amazed when people remember my character in Coronation Street – it was about 14 years ago now. The small screen reaches into thousands and often millions of people’s homes. I am very excited about our production of Dorian. Bringing this piece to the stage will hopefully arrest those who are familiar with the novel and those who have never read it or seen a stage production of it before. Sean Aydon’s clever adaptation enhances certain aspects of the story we are familiar with, it feels fresh and has a more contemporary impact.

Which role have you enjoyed the most over your career and why?

One of my first experiences of acting on stage was playing Mosca in Volpone at school it was that experience which made me decide that I wanted to be an actor and I can’t forget it. I was in the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain when I was a teenager anther hugely formative and inspirational experience.

More recently, playing Pierce Harris in Emmerdale was a lot of fun especially playing opposite Zoe Henry. Our story played out in real time it was allowed a kind of a slow burn, which is one of the benefits of a show like that. It had room to develop and breathe. I was grateful for that and enjoyed playing what developed in to a rather troubled and complex character. Cast and crew were a joy plus filming in beautiful locations in the Dales was wonderful.

Have you ever had any onstage mishaps?

I was on stage when a moose’s head fell off the set wall and landed in someone’s lap during a critical moment mid scene once. It was very difficult to recover after that, for us and the audience……you can’t really ignore it!

Do you have any backstage traditions before you go on?

No not really. I deliberately try not to have any or I’m sure I’d drive myself mad! But I do just try to stay as calm and as relaxed as possible, usually impossible under the circumstances and it really doesn’t get any easier!

Tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

I have a non-identical twin brother.

*The Picture of Dorian Gray runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Tuesday, March 26 to Saturday, March 30. For more information or to book call 01325 405405 or visit