Ruth Leon…. Pocket Review of The Collaboration – Young Vic

Ruth Leon…. Pocket Review of The Collaboration – Young Vic

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norman lebrecht

March 11, 2022

The Collaboration – Young Vic

If you’re going to see a play or read a book or watch a documentary about a person or people recently alive, you should check in advance that you’re interested in them. That’s the one thing I should have thought of before I saw The Collaboration, an excellent new play by Anthony McCarten about the artists Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Paul Bettany’s Warhol is a perfect gormless platinum blond shield for Jeremy Pope’s hyper-active Basquiat, two artists so different in temperament and style that it’s difficult to reconcile them when they’re on the same stage, never mind imagining a three year artistic collaboration culminating in a multi-million dollar sale of the artworks produced.

 What they seem to have in common, apart from their individual iconic status in the art world, is self-loathing and insecurity. Overcoming their mutual suspicion, they slowly reveal these and their other shortcomings to one another while gossiping about fellow celebrities.

They are both scornful of the money their art brings them, Basquiat demanding to be paid in cash which he throws on the floor of his filthy studio.

The audience comes away with a sense of the ephemerality of art and the permanence of human need. Director Kwame Kwei-Amah does a brilliant job of discovering and mining their differences and his production couldn’t be bettered but, clearly due to a lack in me, I found I really didn’t care about either Jean-Michel Basquiat or Andy Warhol although their personalities, as manifested in this play, seem to me infinitely more interesting than their paintings.

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