Thursday, 17 December 2009


17/12/09, Donmar

1 hrs 40 mins, no interval. Alfred Molina as Mark Rothko, Eddie Redmayne as his young assistant, in a cracker of a play set entirely in Rothko's studio.

I'm writing this some weeks after seeing it, so this is what sticks in the mind.

A wonderful scene in which Rothko and his assistant prime a huge canvas with red paint.

The scene towards the end in whiuch the assistant finally tells Rothko that, by taking the commission to decorate the Four Seasons restaurant in the new Seagram Building -- a commission which clearly troubles him anyway -- Rothko has sold out: he's met with the response that, for the first time, Rothko recognises the boy as an individual and not as a cipher... and dispenses with his service.

There's a lot of intelligent stuff about Rothko's fear of being superseded by a younger generation who will do to him what he did to the giants of the previous generation; about his rivalry with Jackson Pollock; about the 9-to-5 ordinariness of the job of painting.

We loved the detail in the studio; and there was a clever device of a great frame mid-stage which could be wheeled around and on which a succession of paintings and canvases could be hung, after being transferred from the Donmar's famous back wall (which really came into it own in this show).

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