"A Peek Behind Rembrandt's Canvas"
by Eleni Young for remotegoat on 10/11/14

It’s 2:30pm on a Saturday afternoon and I’m heading to the National Gallery. I’m not going to see the latest exhibition and I’m not there to see landscapes, oil paintings or watercolours. I’m going to watch a production featuring Rembrandt, two judges, a talking sculpture and his lover.

It’s not as bizarre as it may initially sound, but it certainly is fun. Performing largely to a middle aged crowd, it’s a shame that this production isn’t being visited by a more varied audience. ‘Play to the Gallery,’ is a one hour non-stop show on the later life and works of Rembrandt and a more philosophical topic, ‘Who owns art? Can it really be owned?’.

Over the space of an hour we meet a barrage of characters re-enacting pieces of Rembrandt’s life (the artist) and of a Rembrandt (one of his paintings), all the while on the phone to an art insurer. In short, this is a Theatre in Education production for grown ups who want to peer behind the canvas.

Well written and wonderfully characterful, the pace is kept lively and most importantly, manages to perform two story lines simultaneously, one in a modern day court and the other in the life of Rembrandt himself. ‘Play to the Gallery,’ is a light hearted production with great comic timing, and the use of the phone operator voice over between scenes, acts nicely as a conduit between the performers and the audience. However, this is not just a nice little production about Rembrandt. Certainly now, as I said before, this is a production that dares to ask the questions around ownership. Can art be really owned? Is art really art if no one can see it hidden behind vaults and steeped under blankets? What about descendants of the artist, should they be allowed to have it? Be prepared for a bit of head scratching as you weigh up the evidence.

This is a thoughtful and well performed production that’s certainly done it’s research and understands it’s subject matter. However, I feel that being performed in a gallery, as fitting as it might seem, the production is somewhat preaching to the choir. I would urge this production to get out into the not so arty world and spread the word, after all, it’s them who should be watching it.

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