Kenny Roach is a highly talented artist beset by a serious alcohol addiction that threatens both his work and his marriage in this new play by Rebecca Russell. John Stenhouse as Kenny is highly believable, fleetingly charismatic, but increasingly angry, paranoid, threatening, jealous and delusional as his alcoholism takes hold. 'What is Art?' asks Kenny in the first of his art lectures with which the play opens, and for him it is clearly a baring of the soul, leaving him railing against uncomprehending critics ('I know I'm good, but I have to wait til they see it too') and the art world, but in particular his long-suffering wife.
Rebecca Russell elicits the audience's sympathy as Lisa, and her monologues are particularly moving, but the play itself is largely unrelenting, punctuated only by the occasional humorous note in Kenny's lectures and the excellent art of Clare McInnerny and Alice Moloney, cleverly built in to the set through multimedia projection. Lisa's role is a thankless one, dramatically, as she almost becomes a narrator, explaining Kenny's artistic insecurity, her collusion with his façade, and his ability to enter a 'private world' of drink. The music of The Smiths hardly lightens the tone either.
Clearly the story is an important one, and the play tackles ambitious and difficult themes as Kenny's drinking turns him into the two-headed monster in his wife Lisa's painting. The banal, repetitive, cyclical marital arguments that the addiction provokes ('it's just a few drinks with the lads... I can handle it') are laid bare, and violence - and the threat of it - are never far from the surface. Arguably, however, Kenny is not initially likeable enough in the first instance to hold the audience's affection, and the importance of his art is not fully revealed, which makes his moral descent and the loss of his muse harder to sympathise with. All in all, the dialogue is well written and well performed, and the play is capably directed with an even pace - affecting, tragic and occasionally inspiring. Verdict - Queen of Herts (3 out of 5) [Jun 10]
24 Jun 10