Marylebone Theatre (venue)
15 November 2023 (released)
19 November 2023
On the 15th November, Ye You’s ‘Picture This’ at Marylebone theatre, brought to life famous artworks through vignettes that amplified up and coming writers and actors. However, like any venture to an art gallery, some pieces were received better than others.
With 18 acts across the two hour performance it’s a packed schedule of art inspired storytelling. There are some impressive names among the literary contributors including Mark Bartlett (Dr Foster) and Amy Rosenthal (Sitting Pretty), alongside a wide range of new talent, premiering original writing for the evening. A 16 strong cast of actors bring their scripts to life. We meet them sitting patiently in a setting that’s reminiscent of a life drawing class.
The paintings at the center of the two hour performance clearly served as loose prompts for the writer's imagination, provoking some interesting, and often surprisingly funny commentary. Francis Bacon’s ‘Seated Figure’, a piece widely associated with mental illness, inspired Joe Mcardle's Downing Street parody, complete with a convincingly bumbling Ed Digby Jones as PM.
Barney Fischwick got the biggest laughs of the night with his ‘Agony in the Garden’ which explored a budding romance between two Just Stop Oil protesters, played by the instantly likable Georgia Bruce and Mary Higgins. Exploring such a cultural zeitgeist through the lens of a painting that’s over 500 years old is an impressive feat.
Other pieces didn’t evoke the same excitement in the crowd, and at worst felt contrived, the confines of writing to art work clearly limiting the storytelling in these cases. The more literal explorations, including Oli Foresyths ‘Comedians’ inspired by Edward Hopper’s ‘Two Comedians’, added little nuance to the painting they are drawn from. This shone a light on the difficulty of translating art across mediums.
The format of the night was at times confusing. With so many actors, writers, and artworks in quick succession, any more complex themes often got washed out in the madness. Clare McIntyre’s interpretation of Edward Munch’s ‘The Scream’ touched on sexual assault for example, but before the dark undertones could be properly internalised by the audience, another more comic segment was in progress.
There’s no denying the sheer potential of the whole team of actors and writers involved in ‘Picture This’. Even though it did feel like wandering through an exhibition without a guide, it offered new perspectives on classic art works, and a rare glimpse at fresh-faced talent before their prime.
You can find Ye You productions on Instagram @yeyouproductions to keep up to date with their next show.