Theatre Thought: ‘Bakersfield Mist’ at The Duchess
The Duchess is proper little gem of a theatre. Tucked around the corner from the more blatantly spectacular Lyceum and Theatre Royal, it almost looks shy in it’s existence. Step inside and it’s full of little nooks and crannies housing bars and programme sellers. I popped in this week to catch the Queen of the Raspy tones, Kathleen Turner in her latest play, Bakersfield Mist by Stephen Sachs.
I have to say, I wasn’t MASSIVELY sold on the poster. I mean, obviously never judge a book by it’s cover and all but it really didn’t leap out and punch me round the chops saying HEY LOOK YOU NEED TO COME AND WATCH ME NOW. Having said that though, I was pleasantly surprised.
The play focuses around a extroverted, ballsy woman living alone in an American Trailer park. She has bought a painting for a measly few dollars at a thrift store which she is convinced is a lost Jackson Pollock. Lionel, the snooty British art expert arrives to authenticate it. The rest is a dense, rollercoastery dialogue about the meaning of art, having a purpose to life as well as desires, hopes and dreams. Kind of a cross between Alan Bennet’s A Question of Attribution and Yazmina Reza’s Art. All neatly wrapped up in 70 mins. Loverly stuff.
As an Edinburgh Fringe veteran I love it when plays are short, zippy and sweet (at Edfringe, anything that runs over an hour is deemed as LONG AS FUCK) and there wasn’t a moment here where I began to get antsy. However, despite the two performances by Ms Turner and her co-star Ian McDiarmid under Polly Teale’s slick direction being both utterly brilliant (Turner prowls and growls like a pent-up tiger pacing around it’s cage, and McDiarmid’s monologue confronting his past demons gained a spontaneous round of applause from a fairly stunned audience) the ebb and flow of the text just wasn’t MASSIVELY convincing at times, pour example, the speed in which the action fell into a drunken rampage around the trailer was a just bit too gung ho for me. Still, if you’d like to see two wonderfully detailed character studies, you could do much worse than popping down to the Duchess of an evening to see these two chew it out over a looky-likey pollock. YAY PLAYS.
Bakersfield Mist runs at The Duchess Theatre until August 30th.
(There’s a few decent ticket deals knocking around as well, so do shop around!)