American abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko didn’t just paint in red. He painted in delicate golds, cobalt, tangerine and shades of greens, pinks, blues, and dazzling yellows. He produced abstract paintings five to six feet tall, often fuelled by high intensity and historical commentary of socio-political events – the atom bomb, WWII and death camps. He believed that a painting had to measure up the tragic trajectory of human history.
Returning back to the West End – after a successful run at the Donmar Warehouse in 2009 and winning six Tony Awards at Broadway – is John Logan’s Red, with director Michael Grandage and legendary actor Alfred Molina. There’s real bite in this 90-minute play – a splash of witty, delicately woven dialogue between the ‘serious’ artist and his young, bright-eyed assistant, Ken (tremendously performed by Alfred Enoch). Red spills the truth on Rothko’s chilling occupation with the art world during a crucial period of the 20th century, while musing, unapologetically, against his assistant on deep ontological questions, such as ‘what is art?’