STUDIES FOR A PORTRAIT
by Daniel Reitz.
King’s Head Theatre 115 Upper Street N1 1QN To 23 May 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 209 0326.
Portraits drawn with understanding.
What this play proves, if it needs proving, is that the young have two advantages over their elders: longer to live, and being a lot better looking. At 76, in his final cancerous months, New York painter Julian Barker may see his canvases sell for millions apiece, yet he’s besotted with 33-year old Chad.
Unlike Julian and his former painter/partner Marcus, chucked-out in favour of the younger man, Chard’s no artist, but a hustler who paraded his bronzed body along beaches where the affluent gay disported, searching for a patron of his own and striking platinum with Julian.
Offering companionship and affection in exchange for inheritance, Chad’s also seeing young Justin. So the plot’s set for a study in self-interest. But there’s more to this King’s Head production (London saw an earlier version last year at the White Bear and Oval House). Each character has their case. Chad inveigled himself into this world because he had to, unlike Ivy League Julian and Marcus; no wonder he’s no time for the latter’s complaints about the way things are.
Among a faultless acting company Travis Oliver’s Chad is outstanding. Strong-featured and forceful, he knows what to do with authority when he has it. Dressed in a blue suit matching the strip across the back wall of Kate Guinness’s set (which neatly marks off Julian’s untidy studio from the sleekly minimalist living-room), he remains equally curt and in command when finally handing some sizeable crumbs to the man he’s supplanted.
Simon Wright has the right degrees of pointless anger, self-pity (never quite undignified) and realisation when Marcus is defeated, with the momentary hope of someone vulnerable to leaders of the pack. Tristram Summers’ Justin contrasts him in the confidence of attractive youth not yet knocked on the head, with a smart mind to match, still in the impressionable phase.
With John Atterbury capturing the freedom of someone lionised career-long and knowing he’s near to death, able to say what he feels and still ruling the roost, the all-round fine acting is held together in Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s taut direction. It makes an admirable evening.
Chad: Travis Oliver.
Julian: John Atterbury.
Justin: Tristram Summers.
Marcus: Simon Wright.
Director: Adam Spreadbury-Maher.
Designer: Kate Guinness.
Lighting: Steve Lowe.
Sound: George Dennis.
Music: Boy George.
Costume: Maria Guirao.
Associate director: Christian Durham.
Assistant director: Matthew Eberhardt.