Review Roundup: BAKERSFIELD MIST, Starring Kathleen Turner
Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid star in new play, Bakersfield Mist by Stephen Sachs, directed by
Polly Teale, which just opened at the Duchess Theatre on 27 May. Inspired by true events, this new play by Stephen Sachs asks vital questions about what makes art and people truly authentic.
Maude, a fifty-something unemployed bartender, has bought a painting for a few bucks from the thrift store. Despite almost trashing it, she now thinks it's a Jackson Pollock worth millions. In fact she's certain it is. But when world-class art expert, Lionel Percy, flies over from New York and arrives at her trailer park home in Bakersfield to authenticate the painting, he really has no idea what he is about to discover.
Let's seee what the critics had to say...
Michael Billington, Guardian: Sachs's play was clearly suggested by the story of a woman who picked up what she claimed was a Jackson Pollock for five bucks in a California thrift store. In the play, the woman is Maude, a boozy ex-bartender living in a trailer park and desperate to have a painting she believes was made by Pollock authenticated. The expert is Lionel, a former director of theMetropolitan Museum of Art, who has been asked by an international foundation to either verify the painting or declare it a fake.
Charles Spencer, Telegraph: I suspect that the American dramatist Stephen Sachs saw Art and thought he wouldn't mind having a hit like that himself. His play also concerns an art work of disputed value, has a cast of only two, and lasts just 80 minutes. It is undoubtedly entertaining, though not quite as slick and witty as Reza's play. On the plus side, it digs deeper at an emotional level and is blessed with terrific performances from American star Kathleen Turner and our own Ian McDiarmid.
Paul Taylor, Independent: Improbably fuelled by slugs of Jack Daniels and climaxing in an all-out wrestling match, the odd couple double-act is conveyed with expert comic gusto by Turner and McDiarmid. But in its musings on different types of authenticity and value, the play is too compressed, glib and reliant on facile twists to be deemed the genuine article.
Michael Coveney, Whatsonstage: Nobody does boozed-up raucousness like Kathleen Turner, returning to the London stage nine years after playing a definitive Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. She appears as Maude, a slovenly, foul-mouthed ex-bartender in Stephen Sachs' formulaic two-hander: and her first words plunge you instantly into a basso imbroglio of bad bolshiness. In truth, the play, which runs for just 85 minutes, never improves on the wild opening moments as Ian McDiarmid's prissy art expert and self-appointed fake-buster, Lionel, survives a brute welcome from a pack of wild dogs out in the Californian trailer park, flounces into Maude's mayhem and promptly declares that her three-dollar junk sale painting's not a Pollock.
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: Polly Teale's production makes the clash of personalities and cultures feel vivid, but Sachs's concern with authenticity (both human and artistic) means he is trying to mine the same territory as Yasmina Reza's wildly successful Art, without really digging that far into either aesthetic questions or psychological ones. For much of the play's 75 minutes the two characters merely seem to be restating their positions with increasing vigour. There are flashes of humour, but despite the strong performances Bakersfield Mist feels very slight.
Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton