Review: Dialogue and Conflict, When Warhol meets Basquiat

LONDON – Giants of the opposing art world attract in “Collaboration, ” A new play premiered on Thursday at the Young Vic Theater here. A chronicle of the creative partnership between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1980s, Anthony McCarten’s play offers flamboyant performances by Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope as two cultural icons.

And if the text doesn’t quite equal its star turns, well, a cinematic version of this play is planned. A movie that would give McCarten a chance to perfect a script that, for now, is only beginning to live up to its promise in season two.

This writer’s achievement with a biography certainly bodes well for Bettany and Pope as they transition to the screen: The movies McCarten wrote about Stephen Hawking (“Theory of everything“), Winston Churchill (“Darkest hour) and Freddie Mercury (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) took home Oscar wins for each of their leading men. His 2019 movie, “Two popes‘ earned nominations for co-stars Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins and is the closest of those films to ‘The Collaboration’.

Like that movie, with his new play, McCarten imagines the conversations and conflicts of a duo. At first, Bettany’s thin, languid Warhol is uncertain about the emergence of the talent that Swiss art dealer Bruno Bischofberger (an excitable Alec Newman) has for him and Basquiat: an exhibition. joint exhibition to decide which of the two is the greatest artist in the world. Bischofberger paid attention to the public and regarded the painters as boxers.

“Gee,” Warhol protested to the gallerist, “you make it sound so manly, like a contest.” At first, Warhol’s junior Basquiat, 30, wasn’t sure he wanted to be part of a double play: “He’s the old hat. Does anyone really care about Warhol now? One man buys pop-culture brands and icons (we see Warhol’s signature Marilyn Monroes on the walls in Anna Fleischle’s versatile white mural), the other sees the logos as enemy. Art, Basquiat asserts, “must have a purpose.”

Matter follows a remarkably predictable process from mutual wariness to admiration, ultimately to love. In fact, that very word is voiced in the penultimate line. Rejecting Warhol’s attraction to surfaces that come at the expense of nature, Basquiat became adoring him as a protective opponent turned father figure, sort of.

“I hope you don’t die, Jean,” Warhol warned, emphasizing that the addicted Basquiat had to clean up his behavior. The young artist’s answer was to insist on his own immortality, not knowing of course that the two would die shortly afterwards, within 18 months of each other. When they actually collaborated – on a series of paintings – the time on stage was surprisingly short; you miss the specific attention to the artistic process that drives a play like Tony Award-winning John Logan.”Red“About Mark Rothko.

Director Kwame Kwei-Armah is close and personal with Warhol and Basquiat as the duo go beyond some pretty strenuous interpretations (like when Basquiat, details his Haitian-Puerto Rico lineage) to achieve. real power. The two actors manage to come up with something primitive beyond the pre-written way.

Pope, a two-time Emmy and Tony Award nominee, is filled with fury when we see Basquiat working on “Defacement,” a painting created in response to brutality. of the police. led to the death of a young graffiti artist in 1983. The picture certainly resonated with the Black Lives Matter movement that Basquiat could never see, and made “The Collaboration” a hot topic.

An energetic and restless stage presence, the sweet-faced actor conveys the heightened acuity of a man suffering from disaster. It’s therefore a pity that the belated arrival of Basquiat’s girlfriend, Maya (Sofia Barclay) seems perfunctory, as if McCarten isn’t sure how to extend the story beyond the artist duo.

In turn, Bettany is a great actor in his first theatrical role in several decades. The Briton, a longtime US resident, has starred in Marvel movies and recently impressed as the banned Duke of Argyll on the station’s TV show “A Very British Scandal” BBC, will come to the US in April.

A character with a white wig still reeling from being shot by Valerie Solanas a few years before the play begins, this Warhol reveals an insecurity and disgust that goes beyond the caricature. Survival, you feel, is no less precarious for him than Basquiat. Both myths are heartbreaks, reminding us that, no matter how great our cultural heritage, we are all mortal.

Adopted April 2 at the Young Vic in London; Review: Dialogue and Conflict, When Warhol meets Basquiat

Fry Electronics Team

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