Doug Lucie’s plays – one performed at the Royal Court in 1990 and one premiering here – are quick-moving and morally-cemented slights at commercial funding in the arts. ‘What is the difference between sponsorship and ownership?’, asks the Press Release; this concept-for-all tightly packed onto a sheet-white stage, not dissimilar to the canvasses Lucie drags away from pots of corporate cash.
In ‘Doing The Business’ and ‘Blind’, characters lose focus whilst trying to stay on track – a gallerist pays a young artists’ bills in the latter, and a theatre director’s old-time Uni pal offers sensation and headlines in exchange for script edits in the former. There’s a few things city folk don’t want to see staged, you see.
Art, on-mass, for the masses; or art, for artists? That’s the question on the table all night, and both plays make solid attempts at unearthing the trauma of the artist against the demands of day-to-day life and the temptation of the money pot. But whilst ‘Blind’ looks and feels like a play about relationships and the wider social issues surrounding spent artistic life; ‘Doing The Business’ holds a magnifying glass up unto sponsorship, and in its’ closeness retains higher dramatic ground. It’s a joyful two-hander with a throttingly conclusive end-point – and this financier who flirts with business leaves a stench. The inclusion of a couple of It’s 1990, you know! type references made this extra special – how funny it is hearing the past refer to itself as forward-thinking. A cool and unintentionally jaunty mockery of the inescapable self-regard every era is guilty of.
Despite these plays documenting different art-forms and one having a much larger cast, their being side-by-side at times debased the intricacies of both; watering their differences into one milder critique. This is of crucial relevance to punters, wary they’ve heard all this before – and there is very little, at heart, that differs between these two plays. But that said, ‘Blind’ employs charm where ‘DTB‘ threatens. Janna Fox’s curvy, addled ‘Maddy’ is sexy, sultry and sulky – it all aids her downfall, of course – but she’s the wonderfully carried artistic beacon in the funnier of these two plays.
Lucie’s talent is to replace politics with masterful images of the artistic and moneyed. The biting conclusivity of ‘Doing The Business’ will make your stomach churn harder than the chattier ‘Blind’, but these characters all get under your skin, some bad, and some – twenty-four years on from ‘Doing The Business”s stage premiere – still picketing for their artistry.
These ever-relevant plays continue at the @CourtyardHoxton until 23rd February – Grab tickets from The Courtyard’s website
We’ve covered loads of other Fringe theatre recently – Ciphers is still playing @bushtheatre, and check out what we thought of Little Black Book @ParkTheatre