Red with Alfred Molina- Wyndham’s

Alfred Molina commands the stage in Red

Click here to see review of Red on One Minute Theatre Reviews channel on YouTube

(4 / 5)
Photo of Red by John Logan directed by Michael Grandage at Wyndham's Theatre
Red by John Logan directed by Michael Grandage at Wyndham’s Theatre. Photo: Johan Persson

Red is a conversation about art. I realise that could sound boring but I promise you it isn’t. You will be caught up in the passion that writer John Logan  shows for the history of art, the creation of art, even the meaning of the colour red. And you will be gripped by a drama about the conflict between an older and younger generation.

Alfred Molina plays the artist Mark Rothko at a late point in his career when he’s famous and successful. And if you go to this play for no other reason, go to see Alfred Molina.

The abstract expressionist movement of which Rothko was a major player has blown away what went before, but he himself now faces destruction from a new movement with new ideas, Pop Art. As Rothko himself says, the child must banish the parents. It’s a commanding performance. His Rothko is a confident, self-centred, controlling, great artist but we also see just how vulnerable he feels.

Production photo of Alfred Molina and Alfred Enoch in Red
Alfred Molina and Alfred Enoch in Red. Photo: Johan Persson

His assistant Ken, played by Alfred Enoch, represents the new generation. Rothko is very serious about how he fits into history and how profound his art. Like Ken, the new generation- Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol- are more broad-minded and playful. Ken questions and challenges Rothko, gently at first, more confidently as the months pass.

The tension and teasing between them is riveting. Then, every so often, there is an interruption to the musical point and counterpoint of the conversation. And at these points, the two move as one to, for example, move a canvas or (and this was a theatrical moment I’ll never forget) when they paint the red undercoat on a white canvas in silent dance-like unison. I guess this symbolised the fact that, whatever their differences, the two generations were united in their love of art.

Just as the red and black in Rothko’s paintings work with and against each other in a constant dialogue. In fact, the whole production is analogous to Rothko’s approach to painting.

It was vital to him to control how his paintings were viewed- the setting, the lighting, the mood. So, at the start of the evening, Molina is sitting silently on stage as the audience enter still chatting and settling, illustrating how art is diminished if the viewer is not concentrating on it.  

Christopher Oram‘s set impressively recreates Rothko’s studio and provides the perfect setting in which to see the play. Lighting designer Neil Austin keeps the paintings at the centre of our thoughts and makes the red of the title shimmer and glow. Director Michael Grandage has created a wondrous, flowing rhythm in both dialogue and movement.

Red is at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London until 28 July

Here’s the YouTube review of Red at Wyndham’s Theatre-

Pick of 2018 Theatre Shows

Promotional image of Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff in Macbeth at National Theatre London
Anne-Marie Duff and Rory Kinnear in Macbeth at National Theatre. Photo: Jack Davison

I had a great year of theatre going in 2017. My best evening out was at the Soho Theatre where I saw Mr Swallow in Houdini. It was an hour of continuous laughter at its cleverness, clowning and sheer madness.

As for actual comedy drama, I really enjoyed The Lie by Florian Zeller at The Menier and James Graham’s Labour Of Love with Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig but outstanding for me was the revival of Joe Orton’s Loot at Park Theatre and The Watermill Newbury (where I saw it), now uncensored and funnier than ever.

The best musical I saw, Follies and An American In Paris notwithstanding, was On The Town at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre.

The best drama was the revival of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf with Imelda Staunton. In fact there were many great acting performances this year- I’d also pick out Imelda Staunton again in Follies and Robert Lindsay in Prism but the crown must go to Ian McKellen as King Lear at Chichester Festival Theatre.

Looking forward to 2018

If 2017 was a good year, 2018 looks like being even better. There are so many wonderful prospects that it’s going to be very hard for we theatre lovers to choose what to see. Here’s my choice.

And straightway I’m having to choose between two productions of Macbeth. My money’s on Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff at the National Theatre (26 February – 12 May) but there’s no denying the  prospect of Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack performing for the Royal Shakespeare Company (13 March – 18 September) in Stratford is hard to resist.

Promotional image of Sharon D Clarke in Caroline, Or Change at Hampstead Theatre
Sharon D Clarke in Caroline, Or Change at Hampstead Theatre

There are some fabulous musicals on their way. Tony (Angels In America) Kushner’s Caroline, or Change with Sharon D Clarke was rapturously received in Chichester. In 2018, it reappears in the lovely Hampstead Theatre (12 March – 21 April). Strictly Ballroom The Musical which I saw and loved a year ago at West Yorkshire Playhouse gets a well deserved London run at the Piccadilly Theatre (29 March – 21 July). The emotionally charged winner of five Tony Awards, Fun Home has its UK premiere at Young Vic (18 June – 1 September).

There’s a star studded production of Pinter’s The Birthday Party appropriately at the Harold Pinter Theatre (9 January – 14 April). When I say starstudded, the cast includes Toby Jones, Zoe Wannamaker and Stephen Mangan to name but three.

Promotional image of Carey Mulligan in Girls And Boys at Royal Court
Carey Mulligan in Girls And Boys at Royal Court

I thought Carey Mulligan was wonderful in Skylight so I’m looking forward to her return to the West End in a one woman play by Dennis Kelly called Girls And Boys which describes the unravelling of a relationship. That’s at the Royal Court (8 February – 17 March).

Alfred Molina reprises his 2009 success playing the painter Mark Rothko in Red at the Wyndham’s Theatre (4 May – 28 July). It will again be directed by Michael Grandage and will also star Alfred Enoch.

Near to where I live, Nuffield Southampton Theatres open their exciting city centre space with a new play by local lad Howard Brenton. The Shadow Factory looking at Southampton in the Second World War runs from 7 February to 3 March.

Happy theatregoing!