Review: Jan Hallam
SEEING RED: A scene from the play Red, now showing at the Subiaco Arts Centre. Source: PerthNow
PN Red play
COLOURFUL: James Hagan and Will O'Mahony in Onward Production's Red Source: PerthNow
ARTS editor Jan Hallam finds herself thinking about the play Red - now showing at Subiaco Arts Centre - long into the wee hours.
ARTIST Mark Rothko railed at his young apprentice that his paintings were not decorations. That people needed to contemplate and meditate on his famed, massive nearly monochromatic works to let the colours breathe and move and grow.
The same could be said for watching Onward Production’s Red, showing at the Subiaco Arts Centre.
This beast of a two-hander, managed quite brilliantly by veteran James Hagan as Rothko and Will O’Mahony as his assistant Ken, demands meditation and contemplation.
Sure, walking out of the theatre after 100 minutes there is a certain easy, quick gratification – good play, well acted, funny in parts, tragic in others.
It’s only when you leave the chatter behind and let John Logan’s quite stunning play script roll around in your mind, hear Hagan’s distinctive gravelly, growly voice lash out at the world and perhaps most significantly listen to the eloquent silence of the young Mahony, the truth of the play comes pouring out.
There are a lot of great lines in this play. The one that kept repeating and repeating at 2am this morning was “silence is so accurate”.
Directors and actors have to be very brave and very good to let theatre breathe into the silences and director Lawrie Cullen-Tait found the right balance between Rothko’s volcanic temper and his deep well of blackness; between his arrogance and his gnawing insecurities and the myriad paradoxes in between.
Bridging them is Mahony’s Ken, bewildered and silenced by the enormous and disturbing personality of his employer until somewhere within his own silent contemplations he emerges from his shell.
This moment is triumphant.
Are we witnessing the birth of a new genius? We will never know but Rothko sensed it, screaming at the boy to “get out, your life is out there” pointing to the door. Yelling after him, “make something new”.
This play is about so many things – among them an insight into the genius of Rothko, how his intense intellect saw the world and himself in it; it’s a meditation on art and the tension between resisting and succumbing that each generation of artists must confront; it’s about fame and celebrity and their corruptions to ideals and it’s about the truth of colours.
Last night I enjoyed this play. This morning I love it.
Red is showing at the Subiaco Arts Centre until September 3. Tickets through BOCS