Red, a new co-production between Prime Cut Productions and the Lyric Theatre, which is coming to the Belfast theatre from April 8-23, captures the dynamic relationship between an artist and his creations.
Set in New York in 1958 and based on real events, artist Mark Rothko (Patrick O’Kane) is at the height of his career.
He has just received the art world’s largest commission to create a series of murals for The Four Seasons restaurant in the new Seagram building on Park Avenue. It is his greatest challenge yet: to create a definitive work for an extraordinary setting.
Viewed through the lens of his new assistant, the aspiring painter Ken (Thomas Finnegan), we witness Rothko – fiery, uncompromising, and furiously intelligent – struggle with the commission which is threatening to damage his integrity and his creativity. In teaching Ken how to look at his art, Rothko indirectly teaches us.
Ken, however, begins to brashly question Rothko’s theories of art and his employer’s integrity in accepting a commission to work on such a commercial project. He represents the new generation of artists that threaten Rothko’s rule, and challenges his employer’s dismissal of Pop art.
Combative dialogue turns into fierce clashes between the two men, between teacher and pupil, as it becomes a master class of questions and answers about the methods and purpose art. It is a study in artist appreciation, a portrait of an angry and brilliant mind that asks you to feel the shape and texture of thoughts.
Director of Red, Emma Jordan from Prime Cut Productions, said: “I’m thrilled to be back at the Lyric co-producing this account of one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. Now more than ever, when the artist and the free thinker are undermined and questioned, it is crucial to look at the role art has in our society, and its ability to inspire, motivate and question authority.”
Red was first produced by the Donmar Warehouse, 2009, before transferring to Broadway in 2010, where it received six Tony awards, the most of any play, including Best Play, Best Direction of a play for Michael Grandage and Best Featured Actor in a play for Eddie Redmayne.
It’s writer, Northern Irish born John Logan, received an Academy Award nominations for Gladiator, The Aviator and he has also written Star Trek: Nemesis, The Time Machine, The Last Samurai, and the Tim Burton-directed musical Sweeney Todd, for which he received a Golden Globe.
His recent feature films include Coriolanus directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes, The Invention of Hugo Cabret directed by Martin Scorsese and the James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre.
His plays in 2013 Peter and Alice and I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers, starred Judi Dench and Bette Midler respectively, and most recently he created the TV series Penny Dreadful, for which he also serves as sole writer.