Francis Bacon once observed that ‘in order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present’. It was true of his paintings and his life and the sentiment is captured in Bacon, by Double Edge Drama, at theSpace on the Mile.
A gripping piece of new writing.
The work is a gripping piece of new writing from William Leckie, who is only eighteen, and appears in the play as Bacon’s lover, George Dyer. Leckie has taken a bold brush to the life of Bacon, creating a picture of the man and an exposé of his attitudes towards people and relationships. There is no physical resemblance between the actors and the real-life characters they portray, but that is not the aim of the play. Instead, we have a piece that focuses on the turbulence that dominated Bacon’s life and the emotional struggles he experienced. To that end a certain degree of historical license has been taken, particularly surrounding events towards the close of the play.
Adam Possner has used sounds and music that reflect Bacon’s tormented mind and Seena Shafai’s use of vivid red in several scenes further enhances the sense of agony found in so many of the artist’s paintings and much of his experience. Jude Martin captures all of this and much more in his performance. Self-confident, he makes it easy to understand why Bacon was a bon vivant, always at the centre of people’s attention, many of whom he at times adored but also held in contempt. Leckie’s script demonstrates Bacon’s command of the language, his ability to craft phrases and his intellect, which Martin embraces and fully articulates. Leckie, as Dyer, equally demonstrates the intellectual and social gulf that existed between them in his limited vocabulary and ignorance of art and literature; something that in heated exchanges Martin cruelly throws in his face. Between them they display the power struggle that dominated their relationship which almost inevitably was going to end, as it did, in tragedy.
Interjections are made into the affair by the contemptuous socialite Mary, a sister figure, who seeks to control much of Bacon’s like and drive a wedge between him and Dyer. Maria Murray Brown carries this off with elite arrogance and snobbish disdain. Similarly, Ollie Taylor, as Bacon’s photographer friend, often comically pours further contempt onto Dyer and provides some more light-hearted moments that heighten the sense of social division.
Director Adrien Rolet has successfully managed the task of fitting the cast onto a small stage area that makes for an intimate experience. He has brought out the strength of the play which lies in the dialogue and crafting of characters whose outward displays often belie their inner feelings and who appear as contradictions, possessing strength and weakness contemporaneously. Confident in this area, Leckie and Martin are less secure in the movement sequences inserted as visual expressions of sexual and emotional engagement, but which nevertheless provide useful device for covering this ground.
In the past Double Edge Drama has brought to the stage actors like Eddie Redmayne and Tom Hiddleston long before they were household names. Who knows, this might be a chance to say in years to come, “I saw him before he was famous”. Don’t miss the opportunity.