Bacon by Pip Utton & Jeremy Towler

Directed by Geoff Bullen

'Argus Angel' at the Brighton Fringe 2007

Bacon's Pope

"Actually, I'm the most ordinary person possible. Its just that I like throwing myself in the gutter. Every artist wants to throw himself into the gutter. Its part of his life, it's a necessity.

Bacon's Lair pip is bacon

You might say that I lead a gilded gutter life, I drift from bar to bar, from gambling place to gambling place, and when I don't do those things, I go home and paint some pictures. I am completely amoral.

If I hadn't painted I would have been a criminal....I have always known life was absurd. Life is nothing but a series of sensations.......Life is so meaningless we might as well try to make ourselves extraordinary...I think of life as meaningless and yet it excites me. I always think that something marvellous is about to happen. How can I trap this transient thing? ''

A one-man show based on a day in the complex and destructive life of arguably the greatest British painter since Turner. A life fuelled by drunkenness, gambling and a liking for a bit of rough…

 “The dreadful man who paints those horrible pictures” - Margaret Thatcher on Francis Bacon.

Reviews

The British Theatre Guide August 2005  
"Pip Utton's performances are always - at least, those this reviewer has seen - masterclasses in acting, and Bacon is no exception. It takes as its subject that extravagant painter Francis Bacon who claimed that he was as much at home in the gutter as at the Ritz. Having to sit for just over an hour listening to one man talking directly to the audience as a dead painter might seem something of a penance but Utton makes it a thoroughly enjoyable experience, for he brings the man to life in all his complexity and - for want of a better word - weirdness.
How does he do it? It's a combination of things: like Rory Bremner, Utton has one of those malleable faces which can look very different with the smallest of changes (in this case, Bacon's hairstyle) and he is a master of body-language. It's not just a case of copying a few typical gestures but everything changes: he becomes the "concentration of camp", and we feel we are in the presence of Bacon himself....... I went into the show knowing some of his (Bacon's) paintings .... and came out feeling that I understood them and knew him. That's no mean achievement for an actor."
Peter Latham

**** The Scotsman 8/08/2005
"Utton spends most of his play's final moments berating the audience for seeking to trawl the gutter of Bacon's life, as if existence itself were merely a series of distractions - drinking, gambling and rough sex - or worse, a Pollock or a Hockney, negating reality and the open corruption depicted by the Anglo-Irish artist.
The recollection order is more or less linear, with tangents into indiscreetness and flashbacks to the artist's abusive father. But they are the self-pitying reminiscence of a drunk till Utton's increasingly abrasive finale attempts and succeeds in shifting focus on to the wounded, chaotic howl of Bacon's vision. Compelling and unsettling"
Jay Richardson

EdinburghGuide.com August 2005
"Frances Bacon even when he was alive was an enigma. Now several years after his death and the passage of time has begun to colour and shape the memory of this unique individual it must be even harder to get closer to the 'truth' what ever that maybe when it comes to knowing and understanding another human being. Pip Utton bravely attempts to do just this in his one man show to cast some light on this incredible artist. Utton in his representation finds a human being and describes a life so far from any social norm that I think I might begin to see how Bacon could have eventually come to produce work which is truly horrifying, his 'Screaming Pope' for instance is hideous and disturbing in its effect. The roots of genius and madness must surely spring from the same plot of ground and Utton's performance illustrates the thin separation of these two qualities.........There is an honesty and depth in Utton's portrayal that only comes from hard work, research and the finest attention to detail. This is a memorable performance."
Garry Platt

***** Scotsgay 2005
"Pip Utton does it again. My main problem with this show was that I know so little of the life of Francis Bacon that I was unable to judge the extent to which this was a recreation of his life and to what extent conjecture, but let’s ignore that. This is a masterpiece. Bravely set in the present time, after Bacon’s death in 1992, it tells of his life from his birth in Dublin. It focuses early on with his sex life and the men with whom he fucked. It moves on to tell his life story and of his painting. Much is made of the representation of an image on canvas and the equivalent photographic image, which Utton brilliantly illustrates by coming out of and going back into character. We learn of a sad old queen who thinks his life has been a disaster. A sad tale about a great painter. Oh, and I’m told, but have not yet seen, that the exhibition of Bacon’s paintings currently on in Edinburgh is excellent."
Martin Powell

Theatreguide.London 2005
"Painter Francis Bacon, known for his violently distorted bodies, characteristically refuses to explain himself in this solo show by Pip Utton, but Utton characteristically brings us fully into the man even as he is attempting to hide. As writer and performer, Utton's mode is to allow the painter to display the public masks he is comfortable behind and then let flashes of anger or other passions expose what's beneath. So his Bacon introduces himself in the guise of a bitchy queen in full Quentin Crisp mode, growing unexpectedly serious when talk shifts to his painting, which he speaks of as hand-to-hand combat with the subject, the medium and the viewer. That self-exposure made, and a considerable quantity of champagne quaffed, he is a little less guarded, and gradually the revelations about his sexual masochism and his need to capture the violence in the human form come together in a view of life as defined by its most intense and painful seconds. There's a lot of humour along the way, and perhaps some things to shock the most sheltered, but the power of the work, as with all Utton's self-written solo pieces, is in the solid reality he creates and the subtlety with which he brings us surprisingly deep into the character."
Gerald Berkowitz

 

Technical Specification  Click here for Bacon Tech Spec

Promotional Material Click here for general Promo; or these links for Bacon photos and brochure text.

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