The Rose Theatre in Kingston-Upon Thames is about to put on a double bill performance of two companion plays about the great British cartoonist and satirist of the eighteenth century, William Hogarth.
Hogarth’s Progress tells two stories, one at the beginning of the satirist’s career and one at the end.
The first play is the revival of The Art Of Success by Nick Dear first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1986, before transferring to London’s Barbican and then to New York.
Compressing the artist’s ascent to fame into a single, action-filled night, Dear follows a larger-than-life Hogarth as he mingles with famous playwrights and artists, royalty and prostitutes, prime ministers and murderesses creating an exceedingly imaginative, thoroughly scurrilous, but nonetheless highly entertaining portrait of a world on the brink of transformation.
The second play, The Taste of the Town, is a new work also by Nick Dear and a sequel to his original work that
catches up with Hogarth 30 years later, finding him now hugely successful, yet still at odds with the world and with himself. Old and tired he may be, but there’s always time for one more fight.
Hogarth’s Progress is a reference to two of his comic strips, A Rake’s Progress and A Harlot’s Progress. A Harlot’s Progress is a series of six paintings from 1731, engraved in 1732, showing the story of a young woman, M. Hackabout, who arrives in London from the country and becomes a prostitute. In the first scene, an old woman praises her beauty and suggests a profitable occupation, procuring her for the gentleman shown towards the back of the image. She is a mistress with two lovers in the second, has become a common prostitute on the point of being arrested in the third, and is beating hemp in Bridewell Prison in the fourth. By the fifth, she is dying from a venereal disease, and she is dead aged only 23 in the last. While A Rake’s Progress was a series of eight paintings produced in 1732–34, then engraved in 1734 and published in print form in 1735. The series shows the decline and fall of Tom Rakewell, the spendthrift son and heir of a rich merchant, who comes to London, wastes all his money on luxurious living, prostitution and gambling, and as a consequence is imprisoned in the Fleet Prison and ultimately Bethlem Hospital (Bedlam). Taste Of The Town refers to Hogarth’s Bad Taste of The Town, an early print by William Hogarth, published in February 1723/24that mocks the then-contemporary fashion for foreign culture, including Palladian architecture, pantomimes based on the Italian commedia dell’arte, masquerades, and Italian opera.
Nick Dear’s previous work includes his adaptation of Frankenstein for the National Theatre/NT Live directed by Danny Boyle and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller. While the director, Anthony Banks was an Associate Director at the National Theatre for a decade.
Each play can be seen as a single performance or together, either over different days or as one all-day theatrical experience, and the run begins in September.
A special offer ending today allows people to save £20 when booking both performances together.