Andy Warhol’s Nothing Special

Developed as part of The Performance Corporation’s SIMPLY Space Programme

Theatre Machine Turns You On Vol. I at Project Arts Centre, 2009 / Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick 2010 / Electric Picnic, Mindfield Theatre Tent, 2010

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An appropriately playful riff on pop-art.

– Peter Crawley, The Irish Times

Kate Kennedy, Lorna Quinn
Kate Kennedy, Lorna Quinn

To borrow from Warhol is perhaps to borrow from the master of style and in this respect the borrower, writer James Hickson, has stolen well – and under Maeve Stone’s subtle direction this interrogation into art and creation emerges as the epitome of Warholian seductiveness and the dandyish pose of cool deeply embedded in the Pop mindset.

                         – Breda Shannon, Irish Theare Magazine.

This is a tale of two Andy’s. The original incarnation of the play was made in 2009 for the inaugural Theatre Machine Turns You On. It was myself and James’ first professional production under the title of Spilt Gin and we were excited to work together to make a new play. We cast Kate Kennedy as Andy and her subtle performance opposite Lorna Quinn’s demure ‘Eve’ was beautiful. With Andy Warhol as the subject It was an opportunity for me to let loose aesthetically, and I embraced the challenge of building a play that encompassed all of the sleek design of the artists own work. The set was simple – Ikea-ish if you will – but it transformed into something more with the help of Matthew Hickson’s wizardy electrician skills. The costumes were monochrome with each character having a signature colour pop.

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The play also included film clips which were shot by Piers McGrail. Working with film has been something that has always interested me and this was a great context to begin experimenting with it.

Shooting clips for Andy Warhol's Nothing Special
Shooting clips for Andy Warhol’s Nothing Special

The Original Programme Note:

Andy Warhol, whose own silver and neon image is as recognisable as the art that made his career, inspired a new play by James Hickson. Following the misshapen relationship between Andy Warhold (with a D) and Eve, their recollected memories and moments are given life in a reality informed by the style and practice of Pop. James constructs a vibrant portrait of art, beauty and identity. Repeated white squares form the setting for the journey through this imaginative story. With humour, pathos and a shot of bold choreography, the ensemble bring this artistic era to life on stage.

Screen Shot from footage of Emily Jeffers and Lorna Quinn
Screen Shot from footage of Emily Jeffers and Lorna Quinn

It was an opportunity to play with the music of the era too and Jane Deasy, along with the talents of Dan Quinn, Ian Grant, Oisin Mac Coil and myself on vocals  recorded some contemporary versions of 70s classics by The Velvet Underground.

You can hear “Let Me Sleep Beside Me” here.

CAST (2009)

Kate Kennedy – Andy

Lorna Quinn – Eve

Nathan Gordon – Man

Emily Jeffers – Woman

Nathan Gordon, Kate Kennedy, Emily Jeffers, Lorna Quinn
Nathan Gordon, Kate Kennedy, Emily Jeffers, Lorna Quinn

CREW (2009)

Writer – James Hickson

Director – Maeve Stone

Stage Manager – Katie O’Kelly

Producer – Ed Collins

Set Design – Maeve Stone

Set Construction – Matthew Hickson

Film – Piers @ Annville Films

Lighting – Marcus Costello

Music – Jane Deasy

In 2010 we were booked to tour to Limerick with the show but Kate was no longer available. This became an opportunity for further experimentation with the piece and I decided to cast Dan Colley as the new Andy. We re-rehearsed at Castletown House and explored what it meant to start over with a male Andy.

Working in Castletown House
Working in Castletown House

We travelled to Limerick and presented the work to small but appreciative audiences. Breda Shannon’s review for the Irish Theatre Magazine was particularly effusive. I’ll include the full article below.

Lorna Quinn and Dan Colley
Lorna Quinn and Dan Colley

There were crew as well as cast changes for the second coming of Andy Warhold. Katherine Graham provided a really beautiful design that brought the set and stage fully to life.

Nathan Gordon, Emily Jeffers
Nathan Gordon, Emily Jeffers
Dan Colley, Lorna Quinn
Dan Colley, Lorna Quinn

CAST (2010)

Man – Nathan Gordon

Andy – Dan Colley

Eve – Lorna Quinn

Woman – Emily Jeffers

 

CREW

Director – Maeve Stone

Writer – James Hickson

Producer – Duncan Molloy

Lighting design – Kathy Graham

Film – Annville Films

Music – Jane Deasy

Construction – Matthew Hickson

BREDA SHANNON’S REVIEW FOR IRISH THEATRE MAGAZINE, 2010

Brimming with aphoristically laden dialogue wrapped in a stylistically produced piece, Spilt Gin’s Andy Warhol’s Nothing Special is truly reminiscent of the infamous Factory era. Warhol is all over this tight production where set, acting, directing and musical arrangement coalesce to bring a strange and cool post-modern existential story of love and art, life and death to satisfying fruition. Elegantly clad in mostly shades of silver and announcing themselves on stage in identical white wigs, the quartet cast’s uniformity and beauty mirror the iconic images of Warhol’s tributes to popular culture.

Framed in this experimental play swathed in the synthetic texture of Warholian absurdity are the notions that love and beauty, art and fame are the ingredients as well as the objectives of the artist’s achievements. To be beautiful, to love beauty, to love beautifully and to become famous dissolve and merge together to achieve the artist’s desire; this is the suggestion inherent in the text, signposting us to the view that life as lived is art itself. Artistic achievement elevated above the mere production of good work and transcending the artist’s life in every detail, is the staple upon which the main character Andy (not Warhol) lives his life.

The dialogue heavily borrows from real Warhol repartee and you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a play about Andy Warhol. In essence it is and it isn’t. It’s about an Andy (Dan Colley), an artist who falls in love with his muse Eve (Lorna Quinn) whose beauty he cannot separate from the objective of love. Although in many ways the play succumbs to looking like a reflection on the real Andy Warhol, it goes further than that and is perhaps more aptly a deconstruction of any artist – or any insecure artist – seeking originality and fame in the same servings.

To borrow from Warhol is perhaps to borrow from the master of style and in this respect the borrower, writer James Hickson, has stolen well – and under Maeve Stone’s subtle direction this interrogation into art and creation emerges as the epitome of Warholian seductiveness and the dandyish pose of cool deeply embedded in the Pop mindset.

The narrative is exposed via snapshots into Andy’s life: his childhood, boyhood and adulthood explored in interview style with Emily Jeffers and Nathan Gordon, who are simply called Woman and Man, serving as the investigators into the world of the ethereal Andy. The overlaying of live and pre-recorded interviews and close-ups of the stage action on a large screen behind the actors reinforces the repetitiveness of Warhol’s imagery. Matthew Hickson’s sparse set of two white shelving units divided into five by five square compartments each with an electric bulb provides another clever reinforcement of the Pop era influence.

On this simple stylish set the actors fill the space to deliver the humour and pathos of Hickson’s script. They inhabit their roles with graceful seductive aplomb weaving about each other in a physically playful choreographed style that is both precise and relaxed. In expressions and utterances their performances are enchanting and engaging, a captivating conveyance of the pithy and sententious narrative which is infused with many quotes from Warhol himself: the fifteen minutes of fame; Coca Cola’s absolute availability to bums and presidents, and the idea that a good painting is a famous painting. Hickson’s use of Warhol created maxims cleverly blended with obvious offbeat truisms in his own dialogue extends the humour of the play to great effect. Asked if he has a mother and father, Colley’s Andy replies, “That’s where I got my big break.” On love he warns that you must keep invoices, “because love is the greatest rip off.”

Musical arrangements inspired by David Bowie and Velvet Underground composed by Jane Deasy aptly complement the setting and physicality of the production.

 

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