Pip Utton Theatre Co.
Francis Bacon is a difficult character to pin down. The separation of his work and his life is something that gets caught up in the times he lived through, the politics both sexual and social that he lived through and the mystification of fame and wealth that comes with celebrity.
In his signature style, Pip Utton is as chameleonic as ever, taking the role of the ghost of Francis Bacon, supping copious quantities of champagne and regaling all with tales of his youth, his dalliances, his art and his utter hatred of critics and anyone else who wants his work to be explained.
It’s a measured and sympathetic but wonderfully humorous and heartfelt performance, despite the matter-of-factness of much of the delivery. Utton knows his audience better than to slather the piece with salaciousness or lurid delving into Bacon’s sex life with some depraved winking or unsubtlety. It’s simply a matter of fact: he loved the men he loved and painted many of them, blurring the lines between his heart and his artistry.
What lies at the heart of Utton’s latest masterpiece is the bare-faced unapologetic sentiment throughout. His Bacon doesn’t want pity, or even understanding. Most of all, he just wants the company, and the ear listening to his broadly self-deprecating, mildly egotistical old queening. But in reality, the art comes first and speaks loudest, and it’s a fitting sentiment for a play that asks no favours and offers none in return, striking at the audience with meaning that either stirs them to the core or is better left unexplained.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan