The Rake's progress
The London-born English engraver and painter William Hogarth (1697 - 1764) painted pictures that told a moral story. The Rake's Progress is a series of eight paintings that tells the story of a young man Thomas Rake who inherits his father's estate, impregnates a young woman Sarah Young, marries a wealthy but elderly spinster, and gambles away his fortune. The story could easily be applicable today.
Reproductions of these prints are hung in a room in the Pitshanger Manor in Ealing, the home of Sir John Soane. And it was for this reason that Oddbodies' Rake's Progress was performed here last night. Oddbodies is an acting company made up of John Mowat, the director and Paul Morel, the performer (and Tanya Scott-Wilson).
In this one-man show and very little prop (two chairs, pitcher of water, glass), Paul Morel is the narrator and various characters in the paintings. In this day of complexity, it's hard to imagine one can do so much with so little. First the narrator talks to the Tom's father. He has to switch between being an athletic, healthy man to being a stooped and slow older man. Later the boxer who wants to be an actor shows up. He is tall and stupid. Throughout the play, Morel changes his posture, pace, accent, and facial expression.
Without knowing a thing about Hogarth or his paintings, I found it difficult to figure what the play was about until half-way through it. I didn't have the programme until the show was over. Nevertheless, I found it very amusing that a story was told about characters in paintings that told another story in themselves.
Next year is 250th anniversary of Sir John Soane's birth. No doubt there will be more events commemorating this great architect.
12 October 2002 Saturday
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