I Shall Wear Purple Production Photo Courtesy Of C21 Theatre Company
As common a theme as "life imitating art", and vice versa, might be, writer Rosemary Jenkinson and director Stephen Kelly have somehow managed to present a fresh, vibrant and funny spin on it in I Shall Wear Purple.
Although when I see paint everywhere on the stage floor, I'm not so much thinking of purple, but red. Red, that is. Jenkinson has clearly thought so too, drawing inspiration from John Logan's famous play to craft her own little treatise on art and the artist.
I say "treatise" lightly because I Shall Wear Purple is more comic than formal. It is less attuned to the stateliness of Red and more in line with the bubbly spark of an Educating Rita, not unlike both plays in that one helps another toward new understanding, but in a more contemporary manner. The pointed flippancy in the language and performances isn't part of the charm, it is the charm.
Wisdom and humour flows from the exchanges of retired teacher Olivia (the impressive Stella McCusker) and arts therapist Thomas (an equally good Patrick McBrearty) in the confines of Malinderry care home to the delight of the watching audience. Over the course of seventy-five minutes, the meanings of colours and families are joyfully and painfully broken down, and the perils of artistic ambition are smartly addressed in a laudably auto-critical comic fable which refreshes in its near apolitical stance around arts and arts alone. This is creative idealism both humane and inhumane, a tale of retreat in isolation and evolution in bonding.
I Shall Wear Purple initially ran at the Baby Grand Theatre at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, until Saturday March 2nd and is currently touring Northern Ireland, stopping in Strabane's Alley Theatre (March 8th), Cushendall Golf Club (Sunday March 10th), Armagh's Market Place Theatre (Wednesday March 13th) and the Old Courthouse, Antrim (Friday March 15th).