The Art of Success: Not so successful

5 11 2012

by Kayla Maloney

The Art of Success is a play that was written in 1986 by Nick Dear. It takes place in eighteenth-century England and is based on the life of William Hogarth (a famous artist in this time period). It is supposed to give the idea that an artist’s life is not always easy, and that sometimes sacrifices and hard decisions must be made in order to be successful. The play involves years of English history all taking place in one night.

Though the play is supposed to be about Hogarth’s life, director Scott Shannon struggles with conveying this in his Nasty Shadows Theatre Co. production. Going into the show I had not read any information in regards to its background or plot. I had no expectations and only knew the plot was potentially racy with full male nudity involved. I came out of the show confused and disappointed. Afterward I read up on the play and learned that it was supposed to focus on William Hogarth’s life. However, this production failed to make this clear to the audience.

Walking into the Theatre New Brunswick Studio theatre I hear classical music playing and see sketches of nude women, and men in eighteenth-century attire all over the walls. I immediately assume this production will take place in the past. However, while watching the opening scene I am confused. My first thought is: Why are all the characters on stage wearing dirty old running shoes? This production takes place in a black box theatre with no set, and little to no props, making it hard to get into the feeling that we are in a different time period. More extravagant costumes would help the overall eighteenth-century effect. I was really disappointed in this area.

Nevertheless, some of the acting is well done. The character Jane Hogarth (Josie Blackmore), William Hogarth’s wife, is believable. Blackmore plays the sweet, conservative and loving wife to a tee. It’s clear that her character loves William very much, but does not agree with some of his ideas and artwork. It is enjoyable watching her performance.

William Hogarth (Matthew Spinney) is acted in a way that we see the character’s true passion for art. However, in some scenes the expressions on Spinney’s face are somewhat overacted. It makes parts of the production feel cheesy. In one scene Spinney complains about how he is freezing because he is almost naked (eventually he is fully nude in this scene); yet, we see him sweating profusely on stage and looking around with wild eyes. It makes a serious scene laughable.

The main issue with this production is that it is hard to tell what the central idea of the story is supposed to be. I assume the production revolves around William, but certain moments change my opinion. One moment I think the main character is William; the next moment I think it is Jane; moments later I think it is Sarah Sprackling (Elizabeth Goodyear), the crazy murderess William sketches. The production is all over the place. It makes it hard to concentrate on the message the director is trying to give the audience. This is why after leaving the theatre I was so confused. I did not feel I grasped the concept of the play in any way. If it is supposed to be about Hogarth’s life, we barely see any of this in the production.

At the end of the day, I would not see the show again; nor would I recommend it to anyone.

The Art of Success ran Oct 26-28, 2012 at Theatre New Brunswick’s studio theatre in Fredericton, and Nov 2-3, 2012 at Saint John High School’s mini theatre, produced by Fredericton’s Nasty Shadows Theatre Co.



One response

15 11 2012


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