Red is my favourite colour. So how could I resist an invitation to the theatre that not only exhorted patrons to wear “any colour, so long as it’s red”, but where the performance was also called just that: RED.
Brisbane theatre-lovers have the chance for the next couple of weeks to catch one of Australia’s most acclaimed actors, Colin Friels, in RED, a Melbourne Theatre Company production presented by the Queensland Theatre Company.
It’s hard to take your eyes off Friels in his intense portrayal of artist Mark Rothko. He paces and prowls, filling the stage, as we hear the story of how Rothko took a commission that would mean he’d never want for anything again. Set entirely in Rothko’s Manhattan studio – with the sounds of 1950s New York spilling in from outside – the play is a two-hander with Tom Barton as Rothko’s new assistant.
For 90 minutes, with no interval, the pair deliver a mesmerising, thought-provoking tale.
“What do you see?” asks Rothko of his young protege as they stand before one of his paintings.
“Red,” replies the aspiring artist. And so we move through an energetic and spirited debate on that never-resolved question: What is art?
Rothko’s rich commission was to create a series of paintings to hang in the swish Four Seasons Restaurant in a newly-opened steel-and-glass skyscraper, the Seagram Building on Park Avenue. But after a visit to the restaurant, he rails against it, returns the money and keeps his paintings.
Written by John Logan (who also wrote the screenplays for Gladiator, The Aviator, and Skyfall), the six-time Tony Award winning play delves into the relationships between artist and audience, and art and commerce.
When you go along, wear red. Most people did.
RED runs at the Playhouse, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, until May 19.