David Benedict on theatre

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The Independent Culture
There are few great dramas about chartered accountants, estate agents or florists, but with scads of plays and films about creative geniuses struggling with failure and/or success, artists cannot complain about their place in world drama. That doesn't stop them, however. Still, as my aunt used to say, that's as maybe. Works of art about works of art are the ne plus ultra of post-modernism, but such artefacts have been around for years, long before architecture critic Charles Jencks invented the term.

The artist has undergone everything from hoary old Hollywood nonsense (ever seen Cary Grant as a ludicrously heterosexual Cole Porter in Night and Day? Don't). to the documentary-style reverence of A Bigger Splash which gave everyone the idea that David Hockney had non-stop pool-side sex with languid boys, an impression he regards with typically wry amusement.

Van Gogh, the man who cut his ear to spite his... never mind... has done particularly well on film. Vincente Minnelli's Lust for Life appeared in 1956, and Robert Altman had another stab at the subject in Vincent and Theo, scripted by Julian "Another Country" Mitchell.

Considering that the zenith of tedium is usually described as being "like watching paint dry", it is surprising that painting makes it to the stage at all, but Joy Perino is having a ball directing Anne-Marie Casey's Artemisia (above), a new play which also uses film. Both women are principally film- makers, and Perino in particular is excited about the possibility of being able to use film on stage to illustrate the thoughts and feelings of the early-17th-century painter, Artemisia Gentileschi, whose extraordinary life and powerful painting make her one of the most celebrated women in art history.

Raped by her tutor, who recognised her talent and stole her paintings, she famously took him to court and won. A painter on stage with film? Could this be the show to banish the horrors of the term "multi-media"?

'Artemisia', Turtle Key Arts Centre, London SW6 (0171-385 4905) from 5 Feb

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