Everyone has an opinion about Andy Warhol. The pop artist himself claimed: “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, all you’ve got to do is to look at the surface of my paints and films, and there I am, there’s nothing behind it.” But in this mesmerizing one-man-one-hour monologue, actor Gerry Roost proves Warhol was wrong. There is plenty to discover under the surface.
Roost’s fascinating voice takes centre stage.
It takes guts to take on Andy Warhol. Gerry Roost not only takes him on, but masters him. Warhol: Bullet karma is a masterclass in scriptwriting, impersonations and video performance. Gerry Roost has studied Warhol’s life and personality down to the last detail, including his trademark speech patterns. The script evolves around Warhol’s gigantic ego and the entourage surrounding it.
We get to peak into Warhol’s early years to the very roots of his obsessive determination to become famous. We are surprised to hear that if he could start over again, he would become a tap dancer. The modern art scene would have been a very different place then. We learn about this envy of David Bowie, his admiration of Lou Reed and friendship with painter Francis Bacon. We hear interesting stories about his New York studio, The Factory, which became a well-known hangout for intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy patrons.
The backbone of Warhol: Bullet karma is the radical feminist writer Valeria Solanas, whose 15 minutes of fame came in 1968, when Warhol rejected Valerie’s script and as a response, she shot him three times. Warhol barely survived the attack and the shooting had a profound effect on his life and art. In addition to constant fear and anxiety, he suffered the physical effects for the rest of his life, including having to wear a surgical corset. The story uses flashbacks and repetition, as well as different characters to bring Warhol’s intriguing world to life.
The actor and writer Garry Roost brings to the table his extensive experience in television, theatre and film. Some might remember him from EastEnders or his sketches with Steve Coogan. Warhol: Bullet karma premiered at Edinburgh Festival 2018, and is now touring fringe festivals in a video format. The video screen is appropriately split into four red, blue, green and yellow coloured sections. Add a background of Warhol’s famous Brillo soap boxes and voilà, the stage is set to honour Warhol’s iconic pop artwork. Minimal use of props ensure that Roost’s fascinating voice takes centre stage.
Perhaps bullet karma did catch Warhol in the end. The great man didn’t quite have the exit he would have wanted. Andy Warhol died at the age of 58 after complications of a common gallbladder surgery. Having spent an hour inside Warhol’s mind, I’m willing to agree with his self-assessment: "I was not a bad person. It was my art."