Red at Wyndham’s Theatre

I didn’t see the original production of Red at the Donmar in 2009 and I never went for Rothko’s art before I saw Red, but now I can’t wait to see Rothko’s art again.  In John Logan’s play, directed by Michael Grandage, we get a flow of speech and action between Rothko, played by Alfred Molina and his assistant Ken played by Alfred Enoch, which is a work of art in itself, creating a rhythmic expression of the thoughts and painting of Rothko.  There is a whole world within the studio which is the set of the play.  The action, which runs over 2 years is centred around the commission Rothko has accepted to create a series of pictures, the Seagram Murals, for the walls of the new Four Season’s restaurant.  I think the part I loved the most was Rothko saying how a painting needs to be looked at – that contemplation was of equal importance to the deed of putting on the paint.  He hopes that people will be kind to his paintings once they’re hung.  Ken offers the energy of the young of the new and of change.  While Rothko accepts and encourages this, he is at pains to guide his young assistant into an appreciation of what makes art truly great.  He gives Rembrandt as an example and he describes the glowing light of a Caravaggio painting that he saw in a dark corner of a chapel.  He finds his art in light and dark – in the spirit of the picture and he cannot come to terms with the concept of pop art and the everyday images of Warhol’s work.  The writing is strong and Molina embodies the life in Rothko.  From the outside we see his struggle and all human struggle to be receptive and alive and creative when all the time we are aware of inevitable death.

Alfred Molina and Alfred Enoch as Rothko and Ken


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