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An Intimate Look at "Scarlet Sunday": A Play Review

By Hannah Kindred

Dive into the captivating world of "Scarlet Sunday" in this play review, and explore the intricate relationships between art and artist, and the power dynamics at play.

In the cozy, bustling Omnibus Theatre, Scarlet Sunday by playwright James Alston paints Clapham red.

Aspiring art curator Yasmin arranges to meet the daughter of the late great artist Ray Blackwood, Ava in the cafe. Yasmin hopes to shed light on the enigmatic life of the artist, whilst Ava is reluctant to share her childhood for a clickbait blog. They sit directly opposite each other, which the director, Imy Wyatt Corner, states is a direct nod to Marina Abramovic’s art performance The Artist is Present, where Abramovic sits with a chair opposite to allow audience members to stare back at her. Perhaps Yasmin believes the artist could be present within Ava, but Ava refuses to share anything until Yasmin mentions Blackwood’s last unseen painting ‘Scarlet Sunday’. Surprisingly, Ava invites Yasmin to her father’s studio at the family home.

The stage set becomes fully illuminated to reveal Ray Blackwood’s artistic space when Yasmin and Ava arrive at the house’s art studio. As Ava hesitantly begins to peel open the truth about her father’s artwork, Yasmin spots ‘Scarlet Sunday’ covered at the back of the studio and is tempted to take the truth of the artwork into her own hands.

In this play, Imy Wyatt Corner and James Alston explore the question of whether art can be, and should be, separated from the artist. At first, Yasmin is desperate to unlock the truth behind Ray Blackwood’s art through Ava, as uncovering this will give her the recognition in the art world she craves. However, her motivation changes once she learns more about Ray Blackwood through Ava and ‘Scarlet Sunday’. Yasmin suddenly becomes able to overlook Blackwood’s flaws and view the art purely on its artistry, since it allows her to justify her passion for his work. But for Ava, ‘Scarlet Sunday’ will only ever be a haunting reminder of what her father did to her.

Camilla Aiko (Ava) and Sorcha Kennedy (Yasmin) play the unlikely duo with captivating vibrancy. At the start, Kennedy creates a bubbly, charismatic Yasmin on the surface, yet desperate to prove herself to Ava as she pitches her interview. In contrast, Aiko’s Ava is reserved yet quick-witted, unafraid to poke holes in Yasmin’s knowledge of Ray Blackwood. This dynamic between the two characters shifts throughout the play. As Yasmin gains confidence as she gets closer to the “truth” of ‘Scarlet Sunday’, Ava is afraid of the painting’s capabilities. Aiko and Kennedy are compelling to watch with this movement of power. However, I believe we spend too much time hearing Yasmin’s small talk trying to win over Ava’s trust, instead of exploring the shift in characters’ motivations later in the play.

The set team (Cat Fuller as the Ser & Costume Designer, Catja Hamilton as the Lighting Designer, Odinn Orn Hilmarsson as the Sound Designer & Composer, Ibraheem Hamirani as the Stage Manager, and Daniel Coffe as the Production Technician) have done a wonderful job of making the set feel immersive. Many details were considered, such as dried red paint on old scraps and paint brushes to remind you of the presence of the hidden ‘Scarlet Sunday’. I also believe the different seats and stools Yasmin and Ava sat on were enlightening touches since their height difference indicated who had the power between them in the moment. The only criticism I would have been that the climactic moment of the play was not executed as it was foreshadowed, due to the prop’s capabilities. Therefore, I think the climax could have been more impactful without these foreshadowing setups.

Scarlet Sunday is an amusing yet thought-provoking play that leaves you feeling aching yet triumphant for Ava’s newfound strength at the end. James Alston succeeded in making the audience question the connections they place between the art and the artist. In his words, “Teasing out the complicated dance between them allowed [Scarlet Sunday] to explore that equally complicated tension between the art we love and the actions of those who create it”.


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