Shakespeare’s iconic problem play transfers to London this November.
When Red first premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in 2009 it was met with critical acclaim. The production went on to Broadway, where it won six Tony Awards including Best Play.
It now returns to the West End with a new production at the Wyndham’s Theatre, which reunites writer John Logan with director Michael Grandage; Alfred Molina, who starred as abstract expressionist Mark Rothko in the original run and on Broadway, also returns to reprise his role.
Set in his New York studio, Red takes audiences behind the scenes of Rothko’s work as he prepares to deliver a series of murals that are to be hung on the walls of the new Four Seasons restaurant at the Seagram Building, currently under construction on Park Avenue.
Rothko’s world is unbalanced by the arrival of Ken, a new assistant and aspiring artist, who watches his master from a distance, desperate to learn his craft.
Over the two years the men work together, they argue about politics and what it means to be an artist in an exhilarating debate about why art – in all its forms – really matters.
Alfred Molina returns to play Mark Rothko. Joining him in this two-hander is Alfred Enoch – rising star of US television drama series How to Get Away With Murder – as Ken, a role previously played by Eddie Redmayne both in London and on Broadway.
The two men are exceptional on stage. The play is instantly engaging and captivating, taking audiences into one of the most pivotal times in the career of one of the twentieth’s centuries most influential artists.
Red is a tour de force by both Molina and Enoch. As a two-hander, neither are really offstage throughout, and the one-act 90 minutes fly by as you’re taken deep into Rothko’s mind and thought process as an artist.
As a character, he’s not easy to warm too. He’s abrasive and cold, and really puts Ken through the ringer over the two years they work together. Still, it’s a thrilling performance from Molina, who absolutely shines here – and Logan’s pithy and punchy script makes Rothko sound suitably erudite and engaging.
As Ken, Enoch plays the undermined student exceptionally well, and you can’t help seeing parallels between Rothko and Ken and the two Alfreds – given Molina’s masterly status and the fact Enoch is just starting out in his career. They’re a formidable pair, which make this wonderful play so enthralling.
The set, too, is stunning. Huge canvases are propped up across the stage, and there’s a working stove and countless brushes and paint pots that evoke a real sense of the dingy studio Rothko is working out of.
Molina and Enoch are actually tasked with shifting paintings across the stage several times throughout the show – and at one point they even prime a canvas live on stage, flicking paint all over each other and the boards.
But audiences have nothing to worry about. Red is so much more fun than watching paint dry, even when that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Red runs at the Wyndham’s Theatre until 28 July 2018.
Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.co.uk