POPE HEAD – The Secret Life of Francis Bacon

Old Ftiz Theatre in association with Théâtre Excentrique

Written and performed by Garry Roost

Directed by Paul Garnault

Image by: Graeme Dalton

Synopsis: The show looks at the life, art, psyche, sexuality, and philosophies of the great artist. Beaten by his father’s henchmen and banished from the family home after he was caught wearing his mother’s stockings. We follow the struggle of the young artist who eventually finds that success and tragedy go hand in hand when you are determined to live life to the full.

Review: Francis Bacon is no doubt one of the most fascinating, mysterious characters of his generation. The mystery and the intrigue will continue to linger, inspire, surprise and perhaps terrify his audience for as long as he is remembered, and for as long as his art is present and to be seen. Garry Roosts’ uncanny resemblance to the man in the spotlight in ‘Pope Head’ certainly added to the presence of his performance. Roost haphazardly entered the clinically white, predominantly bare stage wasting no time introducing the excentrique artist. Three upright canvas banners were pushing to make a statement on stage, which I don’t feel Roost needed. The stark white stage and the man is a striking image in itself, the banners for me interfered with the metaphor of simplicity and vulnerability that the space provided. Removing these banners would create a much stronger canvas for the viewer, and a greater restriction for Roost to challenge himself in performance. The exposure of nothing to hide behind would raise the stakes for all involved, both performer and viewer. Consideration to lighting design could have assisted a stronger support to the rhythm and musicality of the narrative that static banners did not provide.

Regardless, Roost cleverly and wonderfully began to weave a textural historical encounter of the artists suppressed childhood, strict upbringing, his sexual appetites and the feelings and inkling behind the art he created. Roost smoothly transformed himself into a plethora of bold characters with humour and credible expression. A gripping story-teller, with passion that bounced off the walls, tickling the fancy of his audience. Roost is a generous performer, who has quite clearly committed a tremendous amount of time to resurrect a very striking personality. His distortions in his physicality and in his banter were interesting and impolite which felt true to the enigma of an unforgettable man who has left his mark in history with a slash.

Roost, has a way with words and a natural ability to embody the kookiest of characters. Which has me ask, Mr. Roost have you considered taking on Truman Capote? This is a Mardi Gras show worth seeing, I’m so glad I took the invitation to see it. So, off you hop to a late night session at the Old Fitz!

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