On the Ceiling

Previewed 30 August 2005, Opened 12 September 2005, Closed 1 October 2005 at the Garrick Theatre in London

Nigel Planer's debut play On The Ceiling in London featuring Ron Cook and Ralf Little.

1508... The Sistine Chapel ceiling... the blockbuster project of the Renaissance world... but the Pope has surely backed a loser, the man he has put in charge of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is simply not up to the job - afterall, he's a sculptor with next to no experience of painting. The also guy didn't want the job in the first place and has never done anything remotely on this scale before. He's all over the place... when he remembers to turn up for work!

So, who has to cover for him? Who has to put in the hours, teach him his craft, patch up his mistakes, deal with his tantrums and get the job done? Who? Like any big project, it's the little guys, the professionals, the men who've been doing this kind of thing all their lives - they're the ones that are actually going to have to make it happen.

The cast for On The Ceiling in London features Ron Cook as 'Lapo' and Ralf Little as 'Loti' along with David Frederickson as 'Pope Julius II' and Luke Healy as 'the Cardinal'. The production is directed by Jennie Darnell with designs by Matthew Wright, lighting by Neil Austin, sound by Fergus O'Hare and music by Adam Cork. Please Note: This play contains strong language and therefore has an age recommendation of 16 and over.

"Nigel Planer's play On the Ceiling at the Garrick would make a funny TV sketch of no more than three minutes but it should never have been allowed near a theatre... Marvellous Ron Cooke and adorable Ralph Little dressed in hessian tunics and tights arrive on the high wooden scaffold for work, set to their task and all the while they gossip and bitch about the boss who they mimic as a mincing fusspot who would rather he sculpting. Ron Cook is as good as he always is and you wonder what in the world made him take the part, and Ralph Little has such a nice face it is hard to criticise but I suggest he sticks to TV." The Sunday Telegraph

"Nigel Planer's first play begins as a tedious joke and ends as a sentimental cliche. Imagine Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead with Stoppard's ideas, originality and wit... To the actors, my commiseration. God, what a pointless play." The Sunday Times

"This is art history seen from the point of view of the worker ants, the little people, the underlings who, as in many a studio or office today, dislike and badmouth the boss yet come grudgingly to admire him. It's all very well-intentioned and, given the skills of Cook and Little, modestly entertaining. But I wish Planer had made me laugh, care and think rather more. The overall effect is what Michelangelo's work isn't: a bit monochrome, a tad thin." The Times

"Sadly, actor Nigel Planer's comedy about Michelangelo's famous Sistine Chapel ceiling fails to raise the roof. That's not surprising, perhaps, as Michelangelo and his helpers took four years to complete the masterpiece whereas Planer's plot rattles by in only an hour and 40 minutes. Not that there aren't some funny lines as two of Michelangelo's back-up team lampoon their gay employer and bemoan the lack of credit - and cash - they are getting for their labours. Craftsman artist Lapo describes the boss as 'a Florentine faggot' and the work in progress as 'a fresco fiasco.' He and apprentice Loti are like a couple of disgruntled painters and decorators from Sarf London as they eff and blind about Michelangelo getting all the glory. Compensation for a slim, if brilliantly researched, idea - the two characters, Lapo d'Antonio and Lodovico 'Loti' del Buono, really did exist - comes in the shape of Ron Cook's virtuoso performance as Lapo. Ralf Little is excellent too, as his mate. But their efforts aren't enough for On The Ceiling to set the house on fire." The Sun

"Nigel Planer's first misguided venture as playwright is a two-hander in which a plasterer and his mate working for Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel wait for their master to arrive. Going feebly, mirthlessly and without insight where many playwrights have gone before, it sniffs the perspiration behind inspiration, the invisible little people behind the big name. But Ron Cook's lippy Lapo and Ralph Little's clottish Loti are nothing like as entertaining or as interesting as Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern or Beckett's tramps waiting for Godot. As they frolic in tights and talk in silly voices, they resemble pale shadows of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore who have wandered into a Ladybird lecture on Renaissance frescoes. Planer lays on his research with a trowel, like a novice plasterer, splashing specialist terms all over and to little effect, then fails to add a final coat of drama. Lapo endlessly takes the mickey out of Michelangelo, underrates and envies his artistry, and resents the fact that Raphael's flunkies get wine for lunch. Loti is happy to just stand back and admire his master's genius. And so it goes on, interminably. A waste of talent, especially Michelangelo's." The Mail on Sunday

Nigel Planer writes about On The Ceiling: "Although, by dramatic necessity, a small amount of licence has been taken, almost all of the events, people and working practices in this play are based in fact. The two characters in this play, Lapo (Lapo d'Antonio) and Loti (Lodovico del Buono) did exist, and were among the many people sacked by Michelangelo during his long career. When, after four years' work, the scaffolding was finally removed to reveal the magnificent ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it was a major event - a must see - rather like the release of the latest blockbuster movie is nowadays. And, like a big movie today, the frescoed ceiling was the product of a large group of people working together - scaffolders, builders, roughcoat plasterers, plasterers, designers, colourists, pigment mixers. It established Michelangelo, until then known only as a sculptor, as a radical and innovative painter, the inventor of 'an entirely new way of painting'. Completely discarding the original brief for what images should appear on the ceiling the usual saints and popes and New Testament figures wrapped in lavish robes - he conceived a plan to create the most ambitious fresco ever made, with 150 painted architectural panels containing over 300 figures. His subject matter was to be the Old Testament and would include pagan sybils and, eventually, several personified flying images of God. This was one of the most radical designs ever made. Like many building projects today, there was a year's pause in the work on the ceiling, in which Michelangelo chased around Italy after Pope Julius trying to get paid for the work done so far. It was on resuming the work after this pause that he changed his style, doing away not only with almost all his staff, but also many of the traditional techniques of fresco, finishing the last part of the ceiling at breath-taking speed. It was during this final period that he created the most famous images from the ceiling, such as God breathing life into Adam."

On the Ceiling in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 30 August 2005, opened on 12 September 2005 and closed 1 October 2005.