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Botallack O’Clock – a Play in Review

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” In an opening monologue filled with both existential musings and garbled gibberish, t.s. eliot’s immortal lines jumped out clearly, foreshadowing the next hour and a half of Botallack O’Clock, a journey between an artist’s reality, his creative imagination and his thoughts.

Reviewed by Cady Lang

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Botallack O’Clock chronicles the life and person of Roger Hilton, who helped to pioneer the abstract art movement in post-war Great Britain as a member of the avant-garde art movement. Pulling material from interviews with Hilton, his writings, and his art in and of itself, writer and director Eddie Elks paints a deeply intriguing and engrossing portrait of Hilton as both a complex and layered artist and individual, navigating the line between madness and genius.

The play takes place in the most intimate of settings – Hilton’s ramshackle bedroom and studio where for the last two years of his life, he would paint on the side of his bed. This intimacy was echoed in the set, with Hilton (played so completely and arrestingly by Dan Frost) lying on a mattress, back to the audience when the doors open, art supplies and refuse littering every surface. However, this setting parallels the mind of Hilton – a setting in and of itself – which is driven by the ongoing dialogue between Hilton and his opinionated and at times cantankerous radio, with small but unsettling appearances from a sensual bear (both played by winningly by Rhys King).

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The creative genius and imminent mental decline of Hilton provides endless fodder for this play – and like genius and madness, understanding Botallack O’Clock can sometimes be difficult and frustrating. However, the passion that drove Hilton to create the his watershed abstract works is apparent in the sincere and absorbing performances of Frost and King, giving a glimpse of the life of an artist that was as significant and complex as the art he created. – Cady Lang

Botallack O’Clock (plays through June 9th; tickets are $25) 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59 Street, New York, NY 10022. [212-289-4200] www.59e59.org

 

 

 

 

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