Queensland Theatre Company is presenting the Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Red at QPAC’s Playhouse. Seasoned theatre goers and those who love an intellectual delve into what constitutes art or those who have ever wondered what really goes on inside the mind of the ‘tormented’ artist will take a lot away from the multi award winning play (six Tony awards, including best play). This John Logan play is sharply written and executed on stage and Colin Friels give a sterling performance as Mark Rothko.
The action takes place in the dim and unnatural light of Rothko’s studio and is based on his journey to create a series of murals for the exclusive Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan’s Seagram Building. At that time the commission was the largest ever offered to an artist. Rothko hires an assistant, Ken (Tom Barton), who is initially ordered to do as Rothko bids but as the relationship between artist and mentee develops so too does the intensity of the drama. The unlikely pair provoke each other through a series of debates, Rothko endlessly pontificating and lecturing to Ken from his conservative yet abstract all-knowing position as master artist. Ken slowly but surely adds the counter point to many of Rothko’s rants making for thought provoking dialogue between the two that is at times funny and at others bone-chillingly cutting.
Friels is a delight to watch as he struts and frets as Rothko. He gallops through the dense dialogue and enlivens the text with a pulsating pace and thankfully so, for any lesser an actor could have made watching Rothko’s ruminations akin to watching paint dry. The tension between the characters of Rothko and Ken is realised with a palpable edge and Barton certainly holds his own in the scenes where Ken challenges Rothko’s sensibilities.
The set by Shaun Gurton made fantastic use of the space in the Playhouse, with the walls of Rothko’s studio soaring high up into the theatre’s fly. The vastness of the set and the wall sized canvases had the potential to dwarf the actors, but somehow Alkino Tsilimidos’ direction aided the audience to hone in close to the interplay and energy between Rothko and Ken and the art. It created a sort of claustrophobic atmosphere or bubble that encapsulated the action, the personalities, the art and the ideals.
The Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Red presented by Queensland Theatre Company is robust and refined theatre and is well worth a look at before its Brisbane season ends.
Queensland Theatre Company presents a Melbourne Theatre Company production
by John Logan
Director Alkino Tsilimidos
Venue: Playhouse | QPAC
Dates: 27 April – 19 May, 2013
Tickets: $35 - $80