Artist/Muse explores the relationship between a muse and her artists; providing an insightful glimpse into artistry at its most vulnerable. The show is a testament to the artistic and spiritual journey of creating art.
The show welcomes you to a life drawing class, with paper, a pad and a pencil provided on your seat. The programme and staff encourage the audience to unleash their creativity on the paper. With the theatre being intimate, and a cast member already on stage in a rather striking pose; the show starts from the moment you enter the room. Excuse the pun, but this really draws the audience in from the get go.
The set is minimalistic and simple. I particularly liked the use of the door frame, which was used to both differentiate the location and to really frame the story at the start of the show. Another stand out part of the stage for me is the blank canvases that are used as art pieces throughout. It’s the subtly of this decision that reminds us that art is subjective; a topic that is touched upon in the show. The play also uses voiceovers, sound, stage lighting and projections effectively, adding another layer to the dialogue. These are often combined with the use of movement from the cast.
The leads Olivia (Catrina Grosoli) and Paul (Sushant Sekhar) are both incredible and completely transform into their characters. Paul is everything you’d expect an artist to be. He’s mysterious (we learn next to nothing about his life outside of this narrative), passionate about his art, riddled with self doubt, often conflicted about his work, quite romantic, introverted and occasionally quite moody. However, despite all of this, Paul still struggles to feel real as a character. I never found myself rooting for him to succeed, although this may also be due to the rare shows of toxic masculinity. There’s a constant conversation about Olivia’s place both around their place, and their relationship. He even chastises her for developing an interest in photography, and dismisses her love for posing. Despite this, Sushant Sekhar delivers an incredible performance as an overwhelmed artist, and is great to watch.
Olivia is a much stronger character and does a fantastic job at being the unpredictable muse. With the use of movement, a rather intense gaze and more emotionally charged dialogues, she captivates the audience effortlessly. You are almost swept away by her performance. Her character arc of being used, abused and discarded by the male artists and ex-boyfriends in her life, to being in total control at the end is such a fascinating journey to watch and honestly, quite satisfying.
However, there are a few moments where the character does come across as extreme, or even preachy. The repeated “trust the process”, “I don’t care about the money, but I need money to pay the rent” and “don’t compare yourself to other artists”, undercuts the otherwise effective extended metaphor of her being the muse.
My favourite character is Robert (Luke Oliver), an elite art collector, who unfortunately has about five minutes of stage time. Whilst primarily written to be a breath of fresh air and comedic relief in the otherwise intense show, his character also speaks volumes as to many issues currently facing artists today. These are touched upon when it’s proven that who you know is just as, if not more so, than what you know, and that artists often must work for exposure to get their foot in the door.
The show itself is written brilliantly and I really enjoyed the personification of the muse, and just how chaotic the making of a masterpiece can be. The show does really well in using Olivia to strike the point of possession. Paul often remarks that he wants to be the only artist to use her as a muse, and often tries to claim ownership over her person. Also, very well-written is the whirlwind way that Olivia and Paul first meet, reiterating just how much of a free spirit muses can be, and that art can not be contained.
The constant comparison of art to sex received the most audience laughter, but this point becomes tired towards the end of the play when a misplaced “my body, my choice” quote falls flat. Whilst it was great to see the writers including this, unfortunately it doesn’t work here.
The piece feels timeless, especially as both digitalisation of art, and film is referenced, and is relatable to artists across all mediums. Overall, the show is quite thought provoking, a story that can you will care about and a fun watch. I do wish we could have seen a bit more of Robert though. Being an artist is hard, but it turns out that being a muse is harder.
Artist/Muse holds its Edinburgh Fringe previews at the Ominbus Theatre on the 19th July before heading to Assembly George Square Studios at the Edinburgh Fringe from the 3rd July until the 28th August. For more tickets and information, you can follow the link here.
AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review