Home > Recent Projects > Red


Presented by Auckland Theatre Company
Maidment Theatre, Auckland, New Zealand, 2-25 June 2011
written by John Logan; directed by Oliver Driver


Mark Rothko
  Michael Hurst  
  Oliver Driver
  Elliot Christensen-Yule  
Set & Costume Design
  John Parker
Lighting Design
  Brad Gledhill
Sound Design
  Claire Cowen

Director's Notes:

I have worked with Michael Hurst many times throughout my career and there was nobody else in my mind who could capture Rothko.  My thanks to him for allowing me to bully him into taking on this role and for working so hard with me to create the play you will see tonight.  I saw many young actors while searching for Ken but Elliot stood out from his very first audition; there was something emininently watchable about him and luckily he is as hard and fast a worker as both Michael and I, which is no mean feat I can assure you.  A play stands or falls on its casting and I could not be happier with my wonderful little cast.

Working with John Parker for the first time as a designer has been an absolute treat.  We wanted to take you inside Rothko's studio to recreate it as closely as we could, and John has managed to make you feel as if you really are transported back to the 50s, hiding in Rothko's studio, eavesdropping on history.

You can't do a play about Rothko without seeing his works up on stage and I thank God for New Aealand artist Paul Pachter, who not only recreated some of Rothko's works for us but taught us all about painting and painters.  This production would not be what it is if he had not turned our rehearsal rooms into an actual painter's studio.

Rothko loved music and the play calls for a sound design that not only stays true to the music he loved but also underscores the story unfolding onstage.  Claire Cowan has created a soundtrack Rothko would be proud of.

Thanks to my Stage Manager Gabrielle; this is her show now and I know it is in the safest of hands.

Finally, my heartfelt thanks to Coin McColl for letting me direct this wonderful production.  It has been an awfully long time since I worked for Auckland Theatre Company but it's good to be back.

-Oliver Driver











Home  Recent Projects Future Projects

Reviews of Red

Theatre Scenes:  "The Maidment Theatre's transformation is nothing in comparison to Michael Hurst's stunning transformation.  Hurst has always been the transformative actor and a transfixing presence onstage, hurling himself into roles, never willing to reuse the same old bag of tricks.  . . . the transformation goes far beyond mimicry, Hurst creating life onstage as the complex Rothko, delivering his rants and insights on life and art with relish.  . . . He's an actor still at the top of his game, and John Logan's Rothko is quite the showcase for his talent".

NZ Herald:  "Michael Hurst's portrayal of the legend is a wonderfully nuanced study of complexity and contradiction.  . . . the play really comes to life in the artist's explosive confrontation with a younger painter who has taken on the thankless task of working as the sorcerer's apprentice".

NBR:  "Michael Hurst is remarkable as the obsessive, critical and peevish artist who wants to make significant art.  He exudes a nervous energy as well as a quirky and serious mind which is reflected in the intensity of the large red art works which dominate the stage.  . . . The two actors manage to engage superbly in the rich dialogue of intertwined heated discussions and convoluted digressions.  . . . The play is a fine mix of drama spiced with comic moments as well as serious discussion of aesthetics tinged with artistic hubris".

Theatreview:  "In creating Rothko, Hurst has transformed himself.  People may say he has the advantage of looking like the original which he does in this production--but it's the craft of the actor, not a quirk of nature that has brought this about.  There is none of the dazzling Hurst flamboyance that so often carries us away, but rather a resolute stoicism, a carefully understated fervour that is, at once, intimidating and endearing.

It's hard not to love someone so immersed in what they do and, in this, character and actor merge almost seamlessly.  There are no cracks in the Hurst characterisation, what you see and feel is what this mastercraftsman wants you to see and feel.  As always, he takes no prisoners, and the vulnerabilities are all carefully calculated.

Yet he's funny too.  Funny and quirky.  Hurst clocks up the laughs but never at the expense of the script or narrative.  Each is beautifully placed to relieve tension or to illustrate a point . . . "

Listener:  "Hurst delivers a reliably rounded performance, exposing the fragility beneath Rothko's bombast.  . . . the play itself is largely a contemplative, idea-driven affair, and this production succeeds in communicating these often complex concepts with admirable clarity".

Craccum: "(5/5) . . . Michael Hurst fully embodies painter Mark Rothko and isn't afraid to delve into the ugly and unromantic side of a tortured artist, the cliche of which he respectfully avoids.  . . . be sure to get along and witness one of Auckland's best productions to date".

Express:  "Michael Hurst as an aging, irascible Rothko . . . contrasts brilliangly with Elliot Christensen-Yule's portrayal as Ken . . . a highly satisfying and enjoyable experience . . . I can unreservedly recommend a night at the Maidment for this performance".