REVIEW: Alfred Enoch Stars in “RED” on London’s West End

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May 18, 2018

Posted by: Emma Pocock | Comments

Enoch, HP Cast, Neil Austin, News

After the opening of RED on London’s West End, Leaky was lucky enough to get to see Harry Potter‘s Alfred Enoch (who played Dean Thomas in the film series) star as Mark Rothko’s assistant, Ken, during his first official week in the production.

RED is written by John Logan, and originally starred Alfred Molina (who returns to this production), and Fantastic Beasts star Eddie Redmayne. The play moved from Donmar Warehouse in London to Broadway in 2009. Its deserving revival on London’s West End this year is directed by Michael Grandage.

Beginning in 1957, RED is set in the New York studio of Abstract Expressionist painter, Mark Rothko (Molina), and his new assistant, Ken (Enoch). Rothko is disillusioned with the new generation’s approach to art, embodied by Ken’s character, and the increasing commodification of art and creativity. After taking on a new project to decorate the walls of the bourgeoise Four Seasons restaurant on Fifth Avenue, Rothko finds himself struggling to balance his ideals and the temptation of fame, money and continued relevance in the world of art. As a result, the play is full of musings on the philosophy of art, foreshadowings of Rothko’s suicide (which is avoided in the play), and a message to audiences; to give art their full attention.

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RED by Logan,           , Writer - John Logan, Director - Michael Grandage, Designer - Christopher Oram, Wyndhams Theatre, London, UK, Credit: Johan Persson

Alfred Enoch completely blew me away in the role of Ken. The American accent (which he discussed learning for How To Get Away With Murder at LeakyCon) suits him well. Matched against Alfred Molina’s intensity on stage, Enoch builds his character from a nervous, yet eager, amateur, and through revelations and moments of vulnerability, creates a worthy opponent to Rothko’s aggressive fits of passion. Challenging Rothko’s contempt for Pop Art, his self-absorption and his tyrannical isolation, Enoch captures perfectly the energy and wit marking Ken’s development. In one scene, Molina and Enoch attack a canvas with an undercoat in perfect sync, matching Ken’s determination with Rothko’s hardiness with an intense display of physical labour. It’s an act perfectly embodying the pain residing in both of the characters. 6000

Cursed Child‘s lightning designer Neil Austin also worked on this production, and gave life to the artwork on stage (created by Christopher Oram), proving incredibly important to involving the audience in Rothko’s vision – who exclaims that natural light ‘doesn’t work’ for him. As Rothko smokes endless cigarettes and muses with Ken how, “To live is to move”, passionately defends the varied shades of red (“Anything but ‘red’! What is ‘red’?!”), and sanctifies the interaction and time required on the part of an audience for works of art to be fully appreciated, lamps illuminate Rothko’s various paintings, breathing life into them and causing them to ‘pulsate’. At times they smoke, others they glow and become powerful enough to consume the entire stage. In one scene, Ken surprises the audience by turning on the overhead lights in the studio, extinguishing their power. As Ken muses Rothko’s motivations and the magic of artistry, he exclaims that these paintings are a stage effect – becoming ‘flat’ in the wrong light. It’s the perfect play for such a talented lighting designer as Neil Austin, so if you’ve seen Cursed Child and were enchanted by the soft glow of the stage, be sure to see this, too!

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Overall, RED is a play best seen than described – just as each person will find what meaning they will in the colour red, white or black, so too will audiences respond differently to the messages in this production. Alfred Enoch’s performance alongside Alfred Molina is not to be missed.

The show runs until July 28th at Wyndham’s Theatre (just next to Leicester Square underground station), with thousands of tickets being sold at just £10! Find out more and book your tickets here.

Many thanks to Michael Grandage Company, and Wyndham’s Theatre, for providing tickets to this inc[RED]ible production!

Photos by Johan Persson.





The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.