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Pope Head: The Secret Life of Francis Bacon review at Ryrie’s Bar Upstairs

Francis Bacon’s life was never all that secret, and this monologue written and performed by Garry Roost breaks little new ground in having the painter tell us as much about his sex life and criminal past as about his art.

Roost meanders through Bacon’s life and ideas in roughly chronological order, much as he meanders seemingly without pattern around the small stage and behind and between the panels that serve as backdrop. Abrupt shifts in topic give the piece a disconnected feel, and although many aspects of the painter’s life are covered, they never really combine into a unified image, nor does any one – the sexual, say, or the catalogue of his friends and enemies – illuminate any of the others.

As directed by Paul Garnault, Roost’s performance is broad and aggressive, appropriate to his subject, but a tendency to accompany every phrase with a gesture or grimace leads to a somewhat artificial and mannered effect. The title refers to a famous Bacon painting, which Roost has him cite as an attempt to capture the inner man as much as the outer, but this theatrical portrait remains external and disjointed, with little sense of the whole man.

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Portrait of the artist is too fragmented to give a clear picture