The Art of Success written by Nick Dear

The Reviews

Venue 1: The Other Place, Stratford-on-Avon
Opened: July 2, 1986
Venue 2: The Pit (Barbican Centre), London
Opened: August 13, 1987
Production Company: The Royal Shakespeare Company
Director: Adrian Noble
Design: Ultz
Lighting: Ian Loffhagen (1), Geraint Pughe (2)
Music: Paul Reade

Niamh Cusack ... Jane Hogarth
Michael Kitchen ... William Hogarth
Philip Franks ... Harry Fielding
David Killick ... Frank & Gaoler
Simon Russell Beale ... Oliver
Dilys Laye ... Mrs Needham
Dinah Stabb ... Louisa
Penny Downie ... Sarah Sprackling
Susan Porrett ... Drummer & Queen Caroline
Joe Melia ... Sir Robert Walpole

Joe Melia and Michael Kitchen rehearsing for the 1986 production.
Production photographs by Ivan Kyncl

Play Notes:
The career of an artist does not unroll happily along like a long red carpet. Decisions have to be taken. Alliances entered into. Enemies made. I wanted to write about William Hogarth because it seemed to me that the choices facing him were peculiarly modern. He stands at a turning point, between an age when to own a picture of any kind other than a religious image was the prerogative of the rich, and an age when the idea of a "picture in every home" became a real possibility. With this new power came new responsibilities for the artist. I do not believe that those who bring pictures into our homes today have even begun to face up to them. These people have become, when challenged, wondrously adept at clouding the issues in a fog of something indefinable and now utterly discredited called "balance". This is invoked to evade hard questions and disguise true allegiances. "Balance" is the language of cheats.

The Art of Success is set in the past, but it is not a history play. This allows me to take on emotive arguments with a degree of detachment. For example, I wanted to write about sex, but to do so within an historical framework where words like "feminism" and indeed "sexuality" were not current. One then has to find new words, new images for age old debates - hopefully more precise ones. I wanted to write about the unconscious in a world before Freud. I wanted to write about television in a world before the camera. To these ends I have condensed some 10 years of English history into the events of a single night. I merge together in time the publication of The Harlot's Progress in 1732, Hogarth's Copyright Act of 1735, Walpole's Licensing Act of 1737 which established the Lord Chamberlain as theatre censor and drove playwright Henry Fielding from the London stage. So, inevitably, I take lots of liberties and make many speculations, but then I think all history is speculating and liberty-taking anyway, dressed up in fancy clothes.

- Nick Dear

Source: The above information and images are from the "Art of Success" theatre programme (The Other Place, 1986).

Michael Kitchen and Penny Downie

Michael Kitchen and Niamh Cusack
Production photographs by Ivan Kyncl

The above two photos are from the 1987 production at The Pit. Thanks to Mr Rob Wilton for the loan of his programme!