The Credeaux Canvas – a theatre review from Deb Meyer

February 5, 2015 by Deb Meyer
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Sitting in the front row of an intimate theatre when there are warnings of nudity in the production (I was allocated the tickets), can make for an interesting night out.

Fortunately, with a clever script, sensitive direction and subtle lighting, along with great acting, the nudity in The Credeaux Canvas is appropriate and tastefully done. It’s just one of the many elements brought to bare in this production at The Seymour Centre.

James Wright, Emilie Cocquerel and Felix Johnson in The Credeaux Canvas. Photo by Cec Busby (Top image)

James Wright, Emilie Cocquerel and Felix Johnson in The Credeaux Canvas. Photo by Cec Busby (Top image)

Set in an East Village attic apartment in Manhattan, the off-Broadway hit play by Keith Bunin explores the relationship between three aspiring artists in their twenties, along with their ambitions, obsessions and desires. They yearn to follow their dreams but are ultimately disillusioned by the reality of their penniless predicament. In their attempts to live off ramen noodles and water in the affluent city of New York, this play is as timely today as when it was written in 2001 and just as relevant in our own city.

In the opening scene we meet Winston (James Wright), sleeping on the floor in his tiny, paint splattered apartment – a cerebral, dishevelled art student and library clerk, obsessed with the little known Belle Epoque artist Jean-Paul Credeaux. He shares the apartment with long-time friend Jamie (Felix Johnson), an exuberant and emotionally unstable real estate broker, whose wealthy art dealer father leaves him nothing in his will.

James Wright, Emilie Cocquerel and Felix Johnson in The Credeaux Canvas. Photo by Cec Busby (Top image)

Carmen Duncan

When Jamie passes by an old, favourite client of his father, Tess (Carmen Duncan) – a wealthy woman who believes she knows more about art than any critic, that Jamie hatches a plan to have his friend Winston recreate a Credeaux painting to pass off to Tess as an original and convince her to buy it.

Convincing Winston to paint Jamie’s beautiful singer girlfriend Amelia (Emilie Cocquerel) as a nude, Jamie leaves the two over many nights to complete the painting. What follows is a series of betrayals and an unravelling of truths, with the Credeaux canvas as the cornerstone of the ensuing love triangle.

All three young actors are wonderfully cast and bring great freshness, appeal and vitality to this tragi-comedy. Emilie Cocquerel provides a brave performance, displaying a lovely combination of Amelie’s vulnerability and strength. Felix Johnson and James Wright provide accomplished and engaging performances to their multi-faceted characters.

The vastly experienced Carmen Duncan, provides the highlight of the play in her one and only scene, when Tess comes to view the ‘rare Credeaux’ in the apartment. With rapid gun fire dialogue, her character deconstructs, analyses, questions and justifies each brushstroke and nuance of the painting, to great comic effect, and in the scenes’ climax, unravels a great deal more about the painter and his muse than they’d bargained for! Duncan is wonderfully cast, with a vibrant presence and great comic timing. Just a shame she couldn’t hold a New York accent nearly as well as the others.

Ross McGregor did well to bring The Credeaux Canvas back to Sydney audiences after a fourteen year hiatus. Along with his skilful direction, McGregor has put together a strong cast and crew –with effective lighting, composition, costume and set design – and whose brushstrokes each combine to create the many layers that make up this provocative and insightful play.

 

The Credeaux Canvas by Keith Bunin

Produced by Les Solomon and Bryce Hallett

Directed by Ross McGregor

Seymour Centre

Until February 14

Bookings www.seymourcentre.com or 9351-7940

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