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Scarlet Sunday opens at Omnibus 28 FEB. The searing drama explores the blurred lines between art and its creators, questioning our complicity in idolising their creations. 

Tell us what Scarlet Sunday is about.

Scarlet Sunday tells the story of Ava, the daughter of the late great artist Ray Blackwood, who meets an arts writer called Yasmin who wants to interview Ava about her father and in particular a mysterious lost painting of his called “Scarlet Sunday”. What Yasmin doesn’t know is that Ava guards a terrible secret about Blackwood and his art, one that has the potential to blow Yasmin’s world apart.

It is a play about the power of art and its legacy. It’s also about truth and a journey to discovering truth; how that truth can shock and hurt us, but also how it has the potential to free us.

Tell us about the inspiration behind the play and the focus on artists and their actions/ cultification of celebrity.

The germ of the idea for this play began about five years ago when I read a script callout for a night of new writing at a fringe theatre. The brief was looking for plays that could be performed with the audience blindfolded. I was interested in telling a story in this way about something that was purely visual, which led me to think about visual art and the idea came to me to write a piece about people discussing the significance of a work of art. At the time, as now, there was a huge cultural conversation happening about the alleged actions of certain artists across the entertainment world, and whether these actions could be separated from their art. This felt like such an important and deeply resonant issue and it very closely informed the development of the story.

As well as contemporary examples, I was also greatly informed by the stories of artists such as Eric Gill and Picasso – men who committed horrific abuse, but whose art is often still placed on a pedestal, and their victims frequently sidelined. I was deeply struck by how our society is so awed by art and artists that we make allowances for their behaviour; the trope of the “tortured artist” often seems to be used to gloss over their actions and feeds into that cult of personality that surrounds great artists, shielding them from closer scrutiny.

The blindfolds are long gone, but the idea of the seen vs the unseen still runs through the play. The actions of artists and celebrities that are hidden under the surface, or sometimes even hidden in plain sight, and our difficulty to reconcile with those actions, is an issue that is sadly just as relevant today as it was 5 years ago.

What challenges did you encounter when crafting this story?

The story examines some rather complex and sensitive topics, including domestic abuse, and I was acutely aware of my responsibility as a writer to handle these topics in a way that wasn’t gratuitous or sensationalist, while also not shying away from tackling them. This has been honed over the play’s development, and I think we now have a play that confronts these issues in a mature and confident way, while giving them the weight that they deserve.

The play is really rich in symbolism and often purposefully leaves a lot unsaid. What does the painting “Scarlet Sunday” represent to you?

Scarlet Sunday represents the point where myth and truth meet. It is the pinnacle of artistic achievement, the “truth” that so many strive for, but so few are able to realise. But it also represents a darker truth, one that we may not wish to acknowledge, but cannot look away from. However, while it may represent the problem, it may also offer the solution. 

Without giving away too much what is your favourite moment or scene in the play and why?

The climax. It’s a moment where one character takes an action they never thought they could, and the whole world of the play collapses in on itself. It’s a moment of passion, and catharsis, but also of hope. 

What do you hope audiences will take away from the show and what broader conversations do you hope this work will inspire?

I never wanted this play to be too “didactic” and tell people what to think. I do, however, want it to provoke audiences to perhaps interrogate their own views on whether you can (or even should) separate the art from the artist. I would like it to provoke wider conversations about how complicit we as audiences are in the actions of the artists whose work we consume. But perhaps most importantly I would like it to spark a conversation about whether these cultural narratives around art and the abusive behaviour of some artists consistently leave the experiences of survivors out of the conversation, and how we as a society can better amplify their voices.

Describe the show in three words 

Haunting. Uncanny. Hopeful.

Scarlet Sunday is a mesmerising two-hander that delves into the struggle to reconcile great works of art with the dark deeds of their creators. Can we truly separate their art from their actions? Do we become complicit in their crimes by consuming their art?

Find out more here.


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