Previewed 10 May 2014, Opened 27 May 2014, Closed 30 August 2014 at the Duchess Theatre in London
Polly Teale's production of Stephen Sachs' new play Bakersfield Mist in London at the Duchess Theatre starring Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid.
Maude is a 50-something unemployed bartender living in a trailer park home in Bakersfield. She bought a painting for a couple of dollars at a charity shop, but despite almost throwing it out, she now thinks it's a Jackson Pollock that would be worth millions of dollars. In fact she's certain it is and now he's got the world-class art expert, Lionel Percy, flying in from New York to take a look at - and Maude hopes - to authenticate the painting as genuine, but really he has no idea what he is about to discover. Inspired by true events, this new play asks questions about what makes art and people truly authentic.
The cast for Bakersfield Mist in London features Kathleen Turner as 'Maude' and Ian McDiarmid as 'Lionel'. The production is directed by Polly Teale with designs by Tom Piper, lighting by Oliver Fenwick and sound by Jon Nicholls. Kathleen Turner returns to the London stage having last appeared here in Anthony Page's revival of Edward Albee's classic play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Apollo Theatre in 2006. Ian McDiarmid's London stage credits include Rupert Goold's revival of Luigi Pirandello's play Six Characters in Search of an Author at thr Gielgud Theatre in 2008. Stephen Sachs' play Bakersfield Mist originally premiered at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles in 2011 and is inspired by Teri Horton, who purchased a painting from a California thrift shop for $5 for a friend because she liked the bright colours, only later to find out that it may be a Jackson Pollock painting, though she had no clue at the time who Jackson Pollock actually was.
When this production opened Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail praised it as being "an intellectual show, full of shadings. And you are out in plenty of time for dinner." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times noted that "the delight is in the performances rather than the play...it is all over in barely an hour and a quarter. And it is pretty delectable while it lasts, from McDiarmid's sour smirks and Turner's bellowing blowsiness to Tom Piper's set." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard wrote that "there are flashes of humour, but despite the strong performances Bakersfield Mist feels very slight." Paul Taylor in the Independent highlighted that "in Polly Teale's slick English premiere of this Stephen Sachs two-hander... the odd-couple double-act is conveyed with expert comic gusto by Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid, but in its musings on different types of authenticity and value, the play is too compressed, glib and reliant on facile twists to be deemed the genuine article." Neil Norman in the Daily Express said that "the return of Hollywood star Kathleen Turner to the West End stage is a cause for celebration," adding that "Turner and Ian McDiarmid play off each other well, though it is sometimes evident that they don't trust the material as thoroughly as they might." Dominic Maxwell in the Times said that "Kathleen Turner reminds us what a genuinely compelling stage star she is in this nimble, rewarding, new art-world comedy about faith, fakes and first impressions... a thoroughly entertaining 85 minutes of quipping, arguing, boozing, opining, fist-fighting and soul-baring," adding that in "Polly Teale's well-paced production... Ian McDiarmid is a treat." Michael Billington in the Guardian thought that "although it is vividly performed and inspired by a real-life case, it struck me as manipulative and implausible." Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph ccommented: "It is undoubtedly entertaining... and is blessed with terrific performances from American star Kathleen Turner and our own Ian McDiarmid... In the final analysis, Bakersfield Mist, neatly directed by Polly Teale and cleverly designed by Tom Piper, is too slight, and a touch too pleased with itself, to be fully satisfying. But, unlike the dubious picture at the play's heart, the performances are the genuine article."
"Directed by Polly Teale with a wonderfully evocative set created by Tom Piper (design) and Oliver Fenwick (lighting), this is an assured production. Ian McDiarmid brings a dangerous edge to the suave academic, and Kathleen Turner rules the stage as a growling, swearing diamond in the rough. Fo me, though, it's all about these performances, which in their magnificence lay bare the, at times, rather predictable paint-by-numbers aspects of the script." The Sunday Telegraph
"Much the best reason to see it is for Kathleen Turner's performance as the Pollock(?)-owning Maude... The play keeps you guessing, there's some good debate about what is art anyway, and Stephen Sachs's one-liners are often sharp. But eventually he wants you to agree that Maude's opinion is just as good as Lionel's, even though he has spent his entire life looking at art, thinking about art, reading about art, talking about art, and hints that he is a failure in every other area. But Lionel really does know more about art than Maude, and his judgment is more acute, if not perfect. The play seems set on refuting this obvious fact: crowd-pleasing, but wrong. And despite a sterling, commanding performance by Turner, if you compare Bakersfield Mist to a similar work, Yasmina Reza's Art, it feels like a rather thin piece." The Sunday Times
"A new American play that is artfully constructed with the occasional well-wrought line, but which is otherwise banal, hollow and nasty, its sole virtue being its 85-minute running time... Director Polly Teale's inability to invest the proceedings with a modicum of reality is not helped by the two actors' contrasting styles. Turner fares the better; her Maude is a low-rent version of Martha in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, her last West End appearance. McDiarmid so overplays the prissiness and feasts on the barbed asides that the play's biggest shock is the news that he has a wife." The Express on Sunday
"Playwright Stephen Sachs is not concerned with the story of a pauper possibly becoming a millionaire. This piece is a mystery of sorts, investigating what a painting is worth, in hard cash and - much more interesting - emotionally. Director Polly Teale allows us to see only the back of the canvas, so what we get of it comes through the eyes of Maude and Lionel... While the painting may or may not be authentic, Kathleen Turner's affecting peformance is as genuine - and as priceless - as can be. Ian McDiarmid's, by contrast, feels fraudulent. All surface, no soul. Moreover, this is not a satisying play, merely a highly accomplished fake." The Mail on Sunday
Bakersfield Mist in London at the Duchess Theatre previewed from 10 May 2014, opened on 27 May 2014 and closed on 9 August 2014 - had been due to close on 30 August 2014.