Visiting Cézanne

Duane Kelly
Red Rover Theatre Company
Hill Street Theatre

Visiting Cézanne

While visiting an exhibition of 19th century French Impressionists, Nora (Elaine McKergow), a failed New York artist, falls foul of a scheme made between two paintings caught in a temporal schism. Cast back through time to the French workshop of an obscure painter, she can only hope somehow Paul Cézanne can help her get back to the future and regain her love of her art.

There are several plot threads all at work here, while Mark Colman and Fergus John McCann get the lion's share of the stage time, as Cezanne and his grumpy gardener and sometime model Vallier, there is a second plot about visiting American writer Bessie (Serena Doran), who ends up helping Nora, and their stories intersect. While the whole does resolve itself and there is more than enough for everyone to do and say, it’s all rather unfocused.

It also expects probably more knowledge of the art scene and Cézanne himself than the average Fringe-goer would have, especially considering the play begins in an alternate reality where his name is next to unknown. That said, who would visit Cézanne without knowing who he was?

Really, this is a curious play, and one that comes at the longer side of Fringe fare, clocking in at around 90 minutes. Despite that, it’s surprisingly a piece that feels both cluttered and a little too thin at the same time, rushing around in place and not really getting anywhere. This is in part because the most pertinent and emotive storylines are thrust to the back, while the time-travel plot feels like it’s all but forgotten.

This isn’t helped by Nora’s character being very thinly drawn. McKergow does her best, but she is saddled with a role which mostly involves occasionally shouting and being exasperated by time travel, but not reacting in a way that feels plausible. But then also an unnecessary plot convolution over a purse-full of money feels like it’s causing complications which then are waved away later with even less point a few scenes later.

It’s a pity, as the play’s outline is certainly workable and the characters manage to engage well enough; you just wish they actually were doing something a little more interesting for most of the runtime, and doing it a lot faster.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan