Playwright Stephen Sachs has used the true events surrounding the potential discovery of an unknown Jackson Pollock painting as the backdrop to his play about art and authenticity.
Set in a trailer park in Bakersfield California, where life is hard and the people poor, it looks at the eternal question of what is art. Maude (Kathleen Turner) is a mouthy, hard drinking, chain smoking bartender who believes she has found an original painting by the abstract expressionist artist Jackson Pollock in her local thrift store. She is so convinced about its authenticity that she contacts an American art foundation about her find and requests (and pays for) an evaluation, hoping to have it authenticated. Lionel Percy (Ian McDiarmid) is the prestigious art expert who is sent to see the painting.
Through feisty exchanges and emotive monologues the play looks at art’s personal, emotional and monetary value. It also questions the authenticity of those who are the proclaimed experts and decide what is and what is not the real thing. The play inevitably uses the clash of culture, class and education to pull its punches and keep the audience laughing. It is funny, although not quite as clever and witty as Sachs’ probably hoped it would be, but Turner and McDiarmid bring it to life and turn it into a raucous ride of irony and sarcasm.
After all the sparing the play finally softens and contemplates the effect art can have on people and what a personal and profoundly moving experience it can be, regardless of a person’s background or education.
Bakersfield Mist is currently showing at The Duchess Theatre in London until 30th August 2014. For more information and tickets go to: www.bakersfieldmist.com