BWW Reviews: BAKERSFIELD MIST, Duchess Theatre, May 27 2014
It is wonderful when you get to see two veteran performers at the top of their game. Bakersfield Mist, Stephen Sachs' study on authenticity, delivers a theatre masterclass from Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid at one of the West End's smallest theatres - The Duchess.
Based on true events, it tells the story of Maude - an out-of-work barmaid living in a trailer park in California who's trying to convince art expert Lionel Percy (McDiarmid) that the ugly painting she found in a junk store is a genuine Pollock. But what does it mean to be authentic - and who has the right to judge? Bakersfield Mist tries to answer this question.
Percy is clearly out of his comfort zone, unable to hide his contempt as he's shown around the trailer decorated entirely from items other people have thrown away; Tom Piper's excellent design is one of the stars of the show. This is a pitch-perfect physical performance from McDiarmid - you can't take your eyes off him. When the suspect painting is first unveiled he builds the moment beautifully.
Turner also delivers a tour-de-force as the desperate Maude, pleading for her dream to be realised. As the story develops, and we understand her true motivations, it's hard not to fall for her.
The chemistry between the two pros is electric. They are clearly both enjoying bouncing off each other, Polly Teale's direction really giving them the freedom to really go for each other; each character effortlessly shifting gears throughout the short play, moving from laugh-out-loud comedy to moments of reflection emotion at the blink of an eye. Their timing is impeccable.
How much of the original true story really happened as we see on stage is a moot point - it is at times more than a little hard to believe. But it is easy to suspend your disbelief when what you get is an hour and a quarter of pure joy. Bakersfield Mist will be one of the West End's hottest tickets.