Francis and Francis | Focus Theatre
Words: Caomhan Keane
Francis Bacon is regarded as the most famous painter in the 20th century with the exception, perhaps, of Pablo Picasso. Born in Ireland, though he never considered himself an Irishman, he was a homosexual at a time when you could be put in jail for being so. His sexuality was largely abhorrent, a result, playwright Brian McAvera attributes to the circumstances of his childhood. "I was interested in exploring the relationship between his sexuality and the images he produced " McAvera says referring to his new play Frances & Francis. "Particularly as no one had spoken in print (before his death ) about the fact that his images were so obviously about Homosexual sex."
Another element of the play is the colonial relationship between Ireland and England, which also influenced him. "As a very young boy Bacon was in London at the start of the First World War looking at the black outs and the rest of it" says McAvera. "But he was also in Dublin during the early Troubles, living on Baggot Street, where there was quite a lot of massacres. So I was very interested in looking at those type of images which were imprinted upon him and which were responsible for the kind of art he produced later on."
Two actors represent Bacon. There is the male Francis and the female Frances which McAvera uses to excavate the male and the female side which slithered and slothed inside him. "The idea came about really simply" he says. "I was walking down the street, looking at reflection in a street window. A woman was passing and her image overlapped mine and that's what gave me the theatrical image to start from." The female Frances is a dominatrix, which McAvera feels was a natural extension, as Bacon liked to be whipped. "And in that homosexual world the males are always refereed to in the feminine. So the tussle that was going on inside his mind."
The form of the play is in a music hall style. "We use a lot of music from shows from the early 60s. And the way the dialogue is delivered...we're not talking about naturalism here. Anything but." On opening night McAvera spoke about the difficulty he had in finding the right actors to interpret his work. "The one advantage of being translated a lot (15 languages and counting) is that you have the benefit of seeing how different cultures and different regimes approach your writing. And working with actors who are trained to the enth degree who are used to rehearsal periods that last 16, 17 months. There technical ability is unbelievable. I remember being stunned in a theatre that sat 750 people by an actress who could take 15 lines of dialogue on one breath. It could be heard bouncing of the back of the wall and her emotional calibration was pitch perfect with no sign of strain. Show me the Irish actor who can do that."
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Friday 17th June 2011 | Theatre
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