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Looking at Lucian review at Ustinov Studio, Bath – ‘stunning portrait of Lucian Freud’

Henry Goodman in Looking at Lucian at the Ustinov Studio, Bath. Photo: Nobby Clark Henry Goodman in Looking at Lucian at the Ustinov Studio, Bath. Photo: Nobby Clark
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Henry Goodman previously portrayed that doyen of repressed fears, Sigmund Freud, in Terry Johnson’s surreal comedy Hysteria. So it doesn’t take a genius to fathom he is the perfect choice to play his grandson in Looking at Lucian, Alan Franks’ exhilarating treatise on one of Britain’s greatest-ever portrait painters.

Given its world premiere at the Ustinov Studio as part of Theatre Royal Bath’s summer season, the play visits the egocentric Lucian Freud in his London studio during a portrait assignment that unexpectedly leads to an appalling act of treachery.

The skill of both Goodman and Franks is that, although this is one-hander, it takes on the mantle of a wholly believable duologue between artist and model. Their ‘conversations’, hilariously sprinkled with Wildean phrases and salacious limericks, uncover Lucian’s recollections of sitters ranging from the Queen to Kate Moss, his meeting with Hitler as a young boy, and his one-time £1.4 million gambling debts.

Director Tom Attenborough guides Goodman through Lucian’s painful self-analysis with a liberal helping of wit and intellect. The painter put a huge premium on the relationship between artist and model (after all he slept with many of them), and this is particularly well brought out at the end, even after the act of betrayal. It is a stunning portrait of a man at odds with, but also on occasions in tune with, his times, in an appropriately ramshackled artists’ studio set by Goodman’s daughter, Carla Goodman.

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Henry Goodman’s skilled portrayal of Lucian Freud is massively more entertaining than watching paint dry