Red at the Donmar

Theatre for me is a very special place. It’s a place which is a source of culture, a place to meet  a friend or go on a date, it’s a place to keep up-to-date with what is of interest to society, to see your favourite actors and keep an eye on fashion too.

Donmar Warehouse is a small theatre but it’s been at the forefront of theatre life for a very long time. One has to remember the miracle touch Sam Mendes had with it for over 10 years and I think the magic is still very much there.

As soon as I have read about the preview of the play called Red, starring Alfred Molina, of the Frida, Chocolat and the Da Vinci Code, I just knew that I wanted to see that wonderful actor on stage.

Red, a new play by John Logan, centres on the creative process of Mark Rothko and his relationship with his assistant Ken, played by Eddie Redmayne (of the Savage Grace and the Good Shepherd ).

The whole play enfolds before your eyes, on the small stage that acts as Rothko’s studio where he was working on the paintings commissioned for the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building on Park Avenue. Rothko decided to hire an assistant, to operate the system of pulleys, mix paints, bring the food etc. Initially, when Ken came on stage he seemed and sounded quite and I wasn’t sure that he would ‘handle’ the booming personality of Rothko, but as the play continued and I became more and more drawn in by the dialogues the sheer talent of both actors came completely into the light.

Molina, unusually bold, appears strong, wide, overwhelming in his rage and in expressing his opinions while Redmayne observes and acts like a young, carefree student, while a dark side of him lurks in the background. But as events unfold and work on the paintings continues Redmayne opens up and comes into his own, becoming complete in his raw & painful monologue closer to the end of the play.

The play’s language is evocative and alive, it is fast-paced and original and it almost educates you about the life and work of the artist-just the listing of the variety of colour red left me speechless with the simplicity and philosophical beauty of it. I was also completely mesmerised by the scene where Rothko and Ken prep the canvas, when the red paint is flying everywhere and both the artist and his assistant are covered in sweat and paint, their energy palpable and raw.

I loved every minute of that play and 100 minutes flew by, without me ever glancing at the watch. And it was incredibly moving to see two different generations of actors act in a way that complimented each other’s work, showing the talent of each of them. I left the theatre deeply thoughtful but very excited that I saw this powerfully constructed play with two magnificent actors that made me deeply thoughtful in the process.

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