Reviewed – 23rd May 2022
“There are some very strong, exciting ideas here, but they’ve been mostly lost along the way”
Set in a near dystopian future in the now decaying but still fabulous Savoy Hotel, the premise of 100 Paintings, as directed by Zachary Hart, seems a perfect marriage of punk and glamour. With the strange addition of an artist trying to produce 100 paintings for the hotel so that he and his mother, otherwise destitute, can stay, there’s an abundance of potential for this to be perfectly bizarre, funny and full of meaningful pathos.
Unfortunately, writer Jack Stacey has missed the mark by a rather long way. Instead, we’ve got a very broad dramedy about an overbearing mother (Denise Stephenson) and an over-mothered son (Conrad Williamson), with occasional unexplained mentions of a destroyed city beyond the bedroom walls. When we’re introduced to Bea (Jane Christie) for example, she’s wearing a respirator mask, and her face is covered in soot. Ooh intriguing. But then we’re fed a subplot that has absolutely nothing to do with the outside, about her recently deceased dad having an eighteen-year affair. Honestly, what is this show about?
Everyone plays their parts well enough; it’s all very yelly and enunciated, but that seems appropriate for the sort of panto-like comedy Stacey has gone for: “Oh it’s on the tip of my tongue”, says mother. “Well stick out your tongue then!” her son quips.
Designer Zsofia Sarosi has done well to create a messy bohemia: stylish wallpaper suitable for a five-star hotel, now peeling and ripped, is covered with irreverent streaks of paint; a dainty drinks trolly is stacked with brushes and empty bottles, and a little coffee table is piled high with teacups and paint pots.
There are some very strong, exciting ideas here, but they’ve been mostly lost along the way. Perhaps if it were simply a mother-son dramedy, without the added mystery of a dystopian future, it wouldn’t feel so disappointing in its execution, and it would certainly be a lot less confusing. Alas.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Jack Whitney
Hope Theatre until 4th June
Previously reviewed at this venue: