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The Painter

Published Monday 17 January 2011 at 12:42 by Natasha Tripney

The Arcola christens its new home, in a converted paint factory on Ashwin Street, with Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s new play about the life of JMW Turner. In choosing Turner as her subject, Lenkiewicz has to grapple with a familiar dilemma. How does one go about showing creative genius on stage? Take away the work and what remains?

Toby Jones (Turner) in The Painter at the Arcola Theatre

Toby Jones (Turner) in The Painter at the Arcola Theatre Photo: Tristram Kenton

Lenkiewicz mingles snippets of Turner’s home life with speeches drawn from his lectures to the Royal Academy. The play is episodic in structure - a collection of short scenes, nicely handled individually, but lacking in bite.

As Turner, Toby Jones gives a strong, subtle performance, which is essentially reactive. Turner is portrayed as a man who gives little away and though utterly assured of his own abilities, he is less confident in his relations with women. He seems genuinely fond of the prostitute who becomes the model for a series of anatomical studies, but he terminates this at the behest of the widowed neighbour with whom he is having a child

Denise Gough is superb as the brittle young prostitute. Her love for her young son is palpable and she gives a sense that she grasps Turner’s emotional limitations far better than the other women in his life - Amanda Boxer as his distressed and volatile mother and Niamh Cusack as the clinging widow.

Production information

Arcola, London, January 12-February 12

Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Mehmet Ergen
Cast includes:
Toby Jones, Amanda Boxer, Jim Bywater, Niamh Cusack, Denise Gough, Ian Midlane
Running Time:
2hrs 10mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014