Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of artist Augustus John, the first production in 24 years of William Douglas Home's Portraits opens at the Finborough Theatre for a limited run of six Sunday and Monday performances from Sunday, 7 August 2011 (Press Night: Monday, 8 August 2011).
Augustus John's ability as portrait artist won him the admiration of fellow artists, public recognition and the Order of Merit. William Douglas Home's play presents various points in the Bohemian artist's turbulent life from 1944 - 1961 through a reconstruction of sittings with three of his subjects (all played by the same actor) - General Bernard Montgomery, fellow artist Mathew Smith and designer Cecil Beaton. This keenly observed, sensitive play is finely interwoven with the thread of John's gradually developing pacifism - from his certainty in spring 1944 that Monty's young ADC will not survive the second front, to war's devastating effect on Matthew Smith, to John's vibrant fear of the nuclear nightmare and his own approaching death.
In a theatrical year that has seen the successful reappraisal of successful West End playwrights such as Terence Rattigan and the Finborough Theatre's own rediscovery of Emlyn Williams, Portraits rediscovers the work of William Douglas Home, one of the West End's most successful post-war dramatists. As always, the Finborough Theatre has avoided the more obvious anniversaries of writers such as Rattigan and Tennessee Williams to commemorate the life and work of leading artist Augustus John.
Directed by the Finborough Theatre's acclaimed Resident Designer in his directorial debut, this is the first production of Portraits since its world premiere at Malvern and its subsequent West End transfer in 1987, when it was directed by John Dexter, and starred Keith Michell, Simon Ward and Stephen Boxer.
Playwright William Douglas-Home (1912-1992) was one of the West End's most successful post-war dramatists. His plays include Now Barabbas (1947), The Chiltern Hundreds (1947), The Thistle and the Rose (1948), The Reluctant Debutante (1955) (which was twice filmed, most recently in 2003 under the title What a Girl Wants, starring Colin Firth and Kelly Preston), The Reluctant Peer (1964), Betzi (1965), A Friend Indeed (1965), The Secretary Bird (1967), The Queen's Highland Servant (1967), The Jockey Club Stakes (1970), Lloyd George Knew My Father (1972), At the End of the Day (1973), The Dame of Sark (1974), The Kingfisher (1978), and After the Ball is Over (1985). The younger brother of Prime Minister Alec Douglas Home, he regularly stood for Parliament himself. He was court-martialled and imprisoned during the Second World War for his refusal to obey orders during the Allied operation to capture the port of Le Havre in September 1944 because French civilians had not been permitted to evacuate.
Director and Designer Alex Marker makes his professional directorial debut with this production. Previous directing includes a staged reading of Iain Finlay MacLeod's Atman, starring Jasper Britton and Alan Cox, as part of Vibrant - An Anniversary Festival of Finborough Playwrights, and he is also Director of the Questors Youth Theatre, the largest youth theatre in London. Alex Marker has been Resident Designer of the Finborough Theatre since 2002 where his designs have included Charlie's Wake, The Women's War, How I Got That Story, Soldiers, Happy Family, Trelawny of the ‘Wells', Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams, Albert's Boy, Lark Rise To Candleford, Red Night, The Representative, Eden's Empire, Love Child, Little Madam, Plague Over England, and its West End transfer to the Duchess Theatre, Hangover Square, Sons of York, Untitled, Painting A Wall, Death of Long Pig, Molière or The League of Hypocrites and Dream of the Dog and its West End transfer to the Trafalgar Studios. Trained in Theatre Design at Wimbledon School of Art, he has designed over fifty productions including King Arthur (Arcola Theatre), The Schools' Theatre Festival (Young Vic), Origin: Unknown (Theatre Royal, Stratford East), My Real War 1914-? (Trafalgar Studios and National Tour), An Eligible Man (New End Theatre, Hampstead), The Viewing Room (Arts Theatre), Sweet Charity (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), The Pink Bedroom (Courtyard Theatre), Oklahoma! (New Wimbledon Theatre) and Cooking With Elvis (Lyceum Theatre, Crewe). His work has been extensively featured in exhibitions, most recently as part of the Collaborators: UK Design for Performance in Nottingham.