Review Round Up: The Collaboration, Young Vic Theatre

Anthony McCarten’s play gets its World Premiere at the Young Vic Theatre – but what have critics had to say about it?

(c)Marc Brenner

WhatsOnStage: *** “The irony is, as the play makes clear, that their deaths made both artists even more collectable. That The Collaboration brings them to such lively, argumentative life feels like a vindication.”

iNews: *** “What makes it worth watching, in a slick and shiny production by Kwame Kwei-Armah, is a pair of vigorous, primary-colour performances from Paul Bettany as Warhol and Jeremy Pope as Basquiat. They give us the Andy and Jean we think we know – the trademark physicality and mannerisms – while hinting at the humanity beneath.”

The Guardian: *** “Bettany and Pope do so much more than merely ventriloquising their celebrity parts. Bettany captures Warhol’s tics – his gawkiness and gormless stares with a deadpan streak of cynicism. He is a far more rounded character than David Bowie’s amusingly eccentric Warhol in Schnabel’s film and steers clear of caricature but certainly brings humour. Pope, meanwhile, gives us a seductive, childlike free spirit in his Basquiat but remains – maybe deliberately – more of an enigma.”

The Independent: **** “Anthony McCarten’s Young Vic pacy production is an exercise in giving the audience what they want.”

(c) Marc Brenner

The Telegraph: **** “This Young Vic production imagines the unlikely – but true – encounter between the doyen of pop art and Jean-Michel Basquiat.”

The Daily Mail: **** “Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope are simply made for each other. Stage chemistry like this is something you better just smoke.”

The Stage: **** “For a play about mould-breakers, it’s structurally and dramatically formulaic, but McCarten has a real knack for humanising icons – for digging beneath the image to reveal the flaws, the contradictions and emotional complexity. He tackles big themes with a lightness of touch – the always blurred boundary between art and commerce, an artist’s ownership of their own image – and while there are arguably places where the play could dig deeper, it has a real warmth to it and resists sentimentality.” ***** “It is a terrific production showcasing two show stopping performances. Warhol’s oft used expression sums it up perfectly. Wow!”

(c)Marc Brenner

The Arts Desk: *** “Engaging recreation of one of the art world’s most intriguing partnerships.”

West End Best Friend: **** “This play (penned by Anthony McCarten), whilst having a few comedic moments, always takes itself seriously. It’s the right balance of entertainment and insight, and while the bulk of the narrative happens in the outside world, the audience is invited into the lives of these two artists (Warhol played by Paul Bettany and Basquiat by Jeremy Pope) and their reactions to one another and the world around them.”

Broadway World: **** “You will leave the theatre still baffled by this unlikely friendship, as well as questioning the nature of art. Hopefully, too, this play will make you realise that our differences can actually bring us together. A great snapshot of two creative masters at work.”

(c)Marc Brenner

Evening Standard: **** “McCarten’s script drops names (Yoko, Mick and Jerry, Steve Jobs) and well-crafted one-liners in a way that’s self-conscious but effective. Kwei-Armah’s zingy production takes place in a white space by Anna Fleischle, subtly altered to represent Bruno’s gallery and each artist’s studio. It’s augmented with chilly, projected Manhattan visuals and thumping 80s tunes from Video DJ Xana.”

Theatre “All too often plays about art and artists fail to nail the drama, so it is all the more exciting when a play like The Collaboration brilliantly illustrates  the working relationship between Andy Warhol (Paul Bettany) and a street artist newcomer Jean-Michel Basquiat (American Jeremy Pope).  Both artists are so likable, complex and finely described, I saw the play and wished I could have met them in real life.”

Time Out: *** “No getting away from it, ‘The Collaboration’ is fanfic. It’s a witty, stirring and slightly cringey drama in which playwright and two-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter  Antony McCarten imagines all the cool and profound things that Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat said to each other when they collaborated IRL together during the ’80s.”

The Collaboration continues to play at the Young Vic Theatre until the 2nd April.

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