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Written by: John Logan
Directed by: Andrew Foster
What do you see?
Passion. Rage. Blood. Red is a six-time Tony Award-Winning play by John Logan (Skyfall, Hugo,The Aviator) about the richly layered and complex character and canvases of Mark Rothko, one of the 20th Century’s most influential abstract expressionists.
It’s 1958 in his New York studio. Rothko has been offered the biggest commission in the history of modern art- a series of murals for the iconic Manhattan Four Seasons restaurant. Embarked upon with his young assistant Ken, it is a battle of wits and brushes as the two characters torment over the purpose of art, and the still current paradox of creating true art within a world of commerce.
John Bach (Lord Of The Rings, Duggan) reprises a watershed performance, “Bach’s Rothko overwhelms us, much as Rothko wants his paintings to do” – ODT. Also starring Paul Waggott (Tribes, Clybourne Park), and Directed and Designed by Andrew Foster (Black Confetti, West End Girls), this Wellington Premiere is compulsory for all creative souls.
13 July − 10 August
Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm
$33 Friends of Circa (until 28 July)
$39 Groups 6+
$36 Groups 20+
$25 Under 25s
“What do you see?” are the first and last challenging lines of the stimulating play Red. They are spoken with a steely intensity by John Bach in his superb performance as the American abstract painter Mark Rothko.
At the start, he is lost in a painting which is hanging behind the audience. His gaze is so intense I was tempted to turn round and look too. But his question is not only a challenge to the audience about what they see in abstract painting, it is also a challenge to Ken, a young art student, who has arrived to work as his assistant.
Ken, superbly played also by Paul Waggott, is understandably nervous and wary of his new boss, as he seems intent on humiliating him about his dismal lack of knowledge about literature, particularly Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy, which the playwright later weaves into the play as the source of the central artistic differences between the two men.
The egotistical Rothko pontificates, bullies, challenges and isolates himself emotionally from his assistant; painting is all. And his latest work – a 1958 commission (the highest in the history of modern art) to create a series of murals for the swanky Manhattan Four Seasons restaurant, which Rothko with characteristic hubris says he will turn into a temple – is the focus of the plot of the play.
Ken begins to catch up on his reading, challenging Rothko’s approach to his work and his dismissive comments about rivals such as Pollock and the emerging Warhol. The debate becomes personal, often funny, but always passionate and underlined by a dramatic projection of Rothko’s death and a rather cliched realisation of Ken’s coming of age.
But it is by no means all talk. We see work in progress in the studio as canvas is stretched, paint mixed and, in one amazing scene, a frenzied covering of a canvas in red paint.
Bach inhabits Rothko so completely that the actor disappears. Waggott, saddled with a harrowing scene of childhood revelation, manages to keep his character appear free of the formulaic.
Andrew Foster’s direction and set design, coupled with his actors’ performances, have produced a first-class Circa production.
Running time: 90 minutes (no interval)
Proudly supported by Peter and Mary Biggs
RED – A LIMITED BLEND OF ROTHKO AND RYE – GARAGE PROJECT MEETS CIRCA THEATRE
Circa Theatre have come together with Garage Project, the brewery, to release a limited edition Red beer – A Limited Blend of Rothko and Rye – to put a bit of art into beer, and a bit of beer into the arts.
Mark Rothko’s paintings and character in RED by John Logan are as richly layered and complex as this specially labelled edition of Garage Project’s Li’l Red Rye Beer. Amarillo and Simcoe hops combine with the earthy spice of rye, and the richness of Munich and caramel malts to create a red beer that’s as dramatic as a night out at Circa.
Make sure you taste this collaboration sensation at ENCORE when you come see RED at Circa Theatre.
Also available at local bars and bottle shops- so keep your eyes open!