A short play by Danaë Brook
At THE MINORIES
‘Waiting for Bacon’, a play on the life and outrageous times of the painter Francis Bacon will be performed at the Minories Gallery, Colchester, where Bacon and his friends the artists Dickie Chopping and Dennis Wirth Miller, members of the Colchester Art Society, exhibited throughout their working life.
The play tells the story of how Bacon, invited to Paris in 1972 for the first major retrospective of his work, at the Grand Palais, took his young lover and favourite model, George Dyer, to stay in a small hotel on the Left Bank. Accompanied by Sonia Orwell, the couple began drinking on the train to Paris and continued through the night. But while the painter was being feted George Dyer, whose image dominated the exhibition, was left behind in the hotel to brood on the treacherous disloyalty of his lover.
The evening of triumph turned to tragedy.
From Artist’s Story to Art Gallery Performance
Artists’ plays in Art Galleries is a big new idea for the art world. As ground breaking experimental theatre, Peter Brook would love it.
In the week before Christmas, Colchester’s oldest, most distinguished art gallery, The Minories, started in 1956, will show a new version of my short play on the wild life of one of the world’s most famously controversial painters, Francis Bacon.
He and his friends exhibited at the Minories.
What few people knew was he divided his time between Soho and East Anglia. Those days between the Sixties’ Summer of Love and the 90’s explosion of modern art were spent living the louche life from Soho to Wivenhoe and back with Paris and Tangiers a stop or two in between.
When I realised my own life had catapulted me into the estuary village of Wivenhoe … curiosity stirred.
When I realised my own life had catapulted me into the estuary village of Wivenhoe, where Bacon had lived and painted on and off for at least six decades, a leading member of the group known as the East Anglian Artists – including Cedric Morris, the Nash brothers and their friends Dickie Chopping and Dennis Wirth-Miller, curiosity stirred. He drawn in by the light and its reflection on the water there and it became one of his favourite places in the world to paint and create.
I was a working journalist, Senior Feature Writer on the Mail on Sunday at that point, specialising in high profile interviews. Covering Arts and Entertainment, film and theatre, literature and politics. I had also decided to do a Masters in Literature at Essex University and fell in love with playwriting.
Essex University has a good reputation for writing and writers. I had two brilliant playwrights to guide me, Jonathan Lichtenstein and Liz Kuti. I gained a Master, then an M.Phil. My play about Bacon was one of the first. Part of a trilogy about artists called Making Art.
I was looking at the dramatic relationships of great artists and how often these tricky dynamics lead to the making of great art. Hence my interest in Francis Bacon, local anti-hero. The middle class Irish-born artist who dared to be openly gay when homosexuality was illegal. His latest work at auction made £60 million but who lived on pennies and pints when he lived down the quay from where I live now.
On 16th and 17th December, the Minories, launches a completely new kind of collaboration when my play, Waiting for Bacon, will be performed in the same gallery as he and his friends’ paintings have hung.
An Art Gallery as a theatre. This is a first.
An Art Gallery as a theatre. This is a first. But what better place? Artists at the centre of the action, centre stage, in the place where their art is shown to the people. Now the public gets to see not only the art but a glimpse into the lives of the people who create it.
George Dyer was Francis Bacon’s lover and favourite muse. When Bacon decided to take George with him to his first ever retrospective in Paris, art capital of the world, he was unsure about the decision. George was volatile, the relationship too, and the initial passion no longer bound them together. But it was George’s handsome image, distorted and mauled as only Francis could, woven like an indelible thread throughout the exhibition. Francis had to take him to Paris. But he did not have to take him to the opening night, presided over by the daunting presence of General de Gaulle, hosted by Madame Pompidou. He decided not to.
Bacon was easily irritated by George, especially when drunk, and both were almost always drunk. George Orwell’s wife Sonia was travelling with them. Tragically Francis decided to leave George behind.
‘Waiting for Bacon’ is the story of what happened next, when George could wait for Bacon no longer.
George committed suicide on the eve of the first great retrospective at the Grand Palais, October 24th 1971.
Bacon then painted three triptychs, known as the black triptychs, for which George Dyer is the model. They record his suicide and are painted in black identifying with the guilt Bacon felt about it.