The Collaboration is a paint-by-numbers sort of a play. Simple yet satisfying. The show is set up as a boxing match between two of the greatest artists of the 20th Century, Andy Warhol (Paul Bettany) and Jean-Michel Basquiat (Jeremy Pope):
- Warhol and Basquiat’s art-dealer, Bruno Bischofberger (Alec Newman), sees an opportunity to make a lot of money by getting them to work together.
- Warhol, the cynic who is all about money, is reluctantly convinced to work with Basquiat.
- Basquiat, the new kid on the block, unsure of what to do with all their money, is reluctantly convinced to work with Warhol.
- Warhol is intimidated by Basquiat’s freedom.
- Basquiat is frustrated by Warhol’s lack of soul.
- Basquiat softens Warhol.
- Warhol falls for Basquiat.
- They end up making art together and living happily ever after.
CONCLUSION: The true value of their collaboration is connection and not the many millions their work goes on to make.
It’s all a bit Disney: the juxtaposition is basic and the way each artist explains their philosophy to the other wouldn’t be out of place in a GCSE presentation. But, and it’s a big but, what the script lacks in depth, the actors more than make up for with a shared energy that lifts the piece beyond its words.
Just like Warhol, we are seduced from cynicism by Pope’s wide-eyed, soft-voiced Basquiat, his character one of those lost souls one can’t help but care for, despite their inability to care for themselves. You are drawn in too by the depths poorly masked by Bettany’s surface-obsessed childlike Warhol.
The music – 80s vinyl skilfully spun from a balcony by DJ Xana– is predictably cool, so is the set – all paint splatters and right angles – and, of course, the artists’ stories are too – how could they not be?
The two lead performances are irresistible. We have seen this story a hundred times over, but it’s unlikely that you’ve seen it acted as well as this.
Review written by Harri Davies.
The Collaboration is currently showing until Saturday 2nd April 2022 at the Young Vic. To find out more about the production, visit here…