Written by John Logan
Directed by Lara Macgregor
Starring John Bach and Cameron Douglas
Performing until May 5

The Fortune Theatre’s latest award-winning production RED is a fierce and intriguing look in to the life of Mark Rothko and his assistant, over the space of two years, as he prepares to create a selection of murals for The Four Seasons Restaurant.

John Bach brings Rothko to life beautifully as he storms around the stage ranting about art and life. The self-centred, twisted soul lays the whole of the art world at our feet in a combination of comparisons and insults while his patient assistant listens on with us. Cameron Douglas’s complementary actions allow the assistant to grow throughout the piece; he is believable in his slow, yet newfound confidence and voice to speak against Rothko. This confidence leads to a lot of arguing (though this happens often enough with Rothko always having something to disagree with) yet it never gets boring, as we see Douglas crawl his way up to the top where he hopes to seek respect, as a man and a struggling artist – a struggling artist who doesn’t even expose his name, leaving the enjoyable mystery of “who is he?”

The tension and use of silence between the characters is a highlight. In one of the final sequences a stunning image is set before us as we see Rothko kick a bucket of water across the stage and for the first time Douglas doesn’t back down. Their eyes are locked and they are stoic in their silence as the only sound to be heard is the bucket rolling and stabilising. It’s these eerie moments that reflect Rothko’s creations hung around the space, uneasy and dark.

The set was fantastic, a huge kudos to the team who must have spent weeks deep in paint attempting to replicate those humongous images, which leads me to another highlight of the piece – live painting on stage! Douglas and Bach danced around each other as they bounded from side to side covering a massive canvas in maroon paint. It was so satisfying to see this kind of live action, and a mess made and not swept up by a stage manager in the interval. Every movement on the set affects the set. Every drop of paint is left to build the landscape of the studio. Everything about the piece is natural. The scene changes are smooth, believable and intriguing. The audience sits in silence as we watched and wondered what would happen next. These scene changes were aided nicely by the use of music, Rothko’s record player dictating the mood and speed of the scene.

I would highly recommend RED to anyone. Granted some people (art history majors perhaps?) will gain more from the piece, and it is very wordy, but don’t let that hinder you from attending. I love that it is packed full of references to the art world, which occasionally go over your head and yet sometimes are used as punch lines which make you feel gloriously educated as you laugh along with the crowd at Pollock’s expense.
This article first appeared in Issue 8, 2012.
Posted 5:04pm Sunday 22nd April 2012 by Bronwyn Wallace.