Enjoy the brushwork in this colourful show

Thomas Haigh as Constable and, Grace Carroll as Maria in Harry's Bar #10 Portrait of the Artist. Pic

Thomas Haigh as Constable and, Grace Carroll as Maria in Harry's Bar #10 Portrait of the Artist. Picture: GILL ATACOCUGU - Credit: Archant

Black&White Productions present Harry’s Bar #10: Portrait of the Artist, by Suzanne Hawkes, at the Conservative Club, High Road West, Felixstowe until Friday, March 15

Packed with interesting painterly facts and funny lines, Portrait of the Artist is an entertaining evening of cabaret theatre with Suffolk at its heart.

Playwright Suzanne Hawkes once again comes up with a great idea and applies rigorous standards of research, to bring her audience a series of dramatic vignettes separated by a carefully selected playlist.

In this case, bearing in mind the production fastens on famous artists, perhaps it should be called a play palette - as the songs, performed by Paul Stone, Stephanie Stoddart and Dennis Bowron was about as colourful as it is possible to get - Back to Black, Colours, What a Wonderful World (Trees of green etc) and many more.

Linking the pieces is a painting that might or might not be a JMW Turner ? is it a fake or is it the real thing?

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Set in The Dolphin pub at Stoke by Nayland, Betty, the landlady (memorably played by Suzanne Hawkes) is one of painter Beryl Cook’s characters. Betty takes on prospective barman Harry who arrives with his “Turner”.

In the course of the evening Suffolk artists turn up at the pub including Maggi Hambling, deliciously portrayed by Jayne Lindill; and Tom Keating, who, in his time painted his own work - plus a raft of original old masters.

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We also rewind to the lengthy courtship, mainly by correspondence, of John Constable and the love of his life, Maria Bicknell, excellently played respectively, by Thomas Haigh and Grace Carroll, and along the way, encounter David Hockney, JMW Turner and Vincent Van Gogh’s brother, Theo.

As well as splendid music and sometimes surprising information this was a production with a mostly light and humorous touch with some laugh-out-loud moments. I was especially taken with Paul Pascall’s Max Wall impression (younger readers may need to Google him).

Other stand out moments included Paul Stone singing Don McLean’s Vincent, the keyboard playing and arrangements of Bill Stoddart, and first sight of Betty’s outfit (fishnets, red mini-skirt etc).

I understand there are a few tickets left for Thursday night’s show - it’s well worth a viewing.


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