Shows: Colin Friel paints Brisbane Red.........................
COLIN Friels stars as Mark Rothko, one of the most influential and best-known artists of the 20th century, in the Queensland Theatre Company’s sterling production of Red.
Friels, who does a bit of onstage daubing, is reprising a role he previously performed for the Melbourne Theatre Company’s staging of John Logan’s Tony Award-winning work.
A two-hander that deals with a pivotal part of the New York artist’s life, Red recently earned Friels the Best Male Actor (Theatre) gong at Melbourne’s Green Room Awards.
Set in the late 1950s, the play follows Rothko as he works on a series of murals for Four Seasons restaurant in New York’s Seagram Building. Ultimately, after a crisis of conscience, Rothko kept the paintings and returned the money he had been advanced.
‘‘I wouldn’t have done the play if the paintings had gone to the restaurant in the end,’’ Friels says.
‘‘Rothko couldn’t have taken the money. It would have ruined him.’’
Friels co-stars in Red with Tom Barton as Rothko’s assistant.
Rothko, who committed suicide in 1970 at the age of 66, eventually made it big – posthumously – in America.
Rothko started out as a figurative painter but his most famous works are abstract blocks of colour which bring some art lovers to tears.
One of his works sold at auction for $US86.9 million ($A85 million) last year.
Friels, 60, says he feels sympathy for Rothko, whom he describes as ‘‘incredibly generous and self-effacing at times but also incredibly grumpy’’.
‘‘I would never do a play a second time around unless I passionately believed in it,’’ Friels says.
‘‘It takes so much of you to do a play and if I’m not committed to it, I can’t give it every ounce of my being.’’
Red plays The Playhouse Theatre, at QPAC, in Brisbane, until May 19. Tickets start at $33.
Tom Barton and Colin Friels star in the Queensland Theatre Company’s