By Adam Davidson, Local Democracy Reporter
The world premiere of The Collaboration, starring Avenger and Emmy nominee Paul Bettany as Andy Warhol and two-time Tony Award nominee Jeremy Pope as Jean-Michel Basquiat, has opened at the Young Vic in Southwark.
The year is 1984 and Andy Warhol’s star is falling.
He has been shot by Valerie Solanas, is afraid of germs, and in desperate need of inspiration.
This comes in the shape of one of the biggest names of the new generation of art – Jean Michel Basquiat.
The unlikely collaboration becomes the talk of New York as two worlds collide and the pair’s differences are laid bare.
From the moment the audience walks through the doors at the Young Vic, they are transported into 1980s New York.
The reception is dotted with Basquiat graffiti, Warhol prints line the walls in the theatre and a DJ (XANA) plays old-school R&B and disco.
This continues inside the theatre where projections of New York apartments and advertising hoardings create a 3-D effect that puts the audience in the heart of the action.
Instead of a faithful retelling of the story, Anthony McCarten’s play instead imagines what would have taken place during Warhol and Basquiat’s friendship.
To a Warhol fan, this can be jarring at times, especially Basquiat’s initial dismissiveness of Warhol – in reality Basquiat called him an ‘art hero of mine.’
The story charts the two artists’ artistic and personal journeys, rising to a climax when Basquiat’s friend Michael Stewart is killed through an act of police brutality.
At the height of his powers in Hollywood Paul Bettany’s risky decision tread the boards has paid off.
His perfected awkward mannerisms avoid becoming a caricature of the artist and he has added a human depth to a figure that has been misunderstood in art history.
Jeremy Pope’s Basquiat added real emotion and authority to the difficult themes of police brutality and drug addiction.
The Collaboration is at the Young Vic until April 2.
Main Picture: Jeremy Pope and Paul Bettany in The Collaboration (c) Marc Brenner