Review: Botallack O’Clock, Third Man Theatre

The abstract artist Roger Hilton is the central figure and inspiration in Third Man Theatre’s Botallack O’Clock, a sublime performance piece that looks into the darkness of an artist’s mind and his connection with his work and life. Performed by Dan Frost as a predominantly solo piece (although an appearance of another performer dressed as a bear does throw the solo performance out the window) it makes for a disturbing but enlightening show.

The early hours (especially 3-4am) are an uncertain time, not quite day and stretching into the depths of the night. It is the time when artists can dream and see their work through creative eyes, at least this is what we are led to imagine. In Botallack O’Clock though, this disturbing time acts as a haunting for the mind, where a radio cackles stories, and the paint runs from the paintings. Surrounded by alcohol and cigarette butts, the lone man struggles to coprehend the world around him, and ultimately his art. He hits out, he drinks, he smokes and leans back on the soiled bed, he is an artist.

Bordering on the surreal, and delivering a series of rambling monologues in the faint glow of the light, Frost’s performance is exceptional. Drawing on the darkness of the surroundings, and creating an artist who suffers for his work, Botallack O’Clock revolves around the artistic nightmares that seek to take over. A voice from the radio strikes up a conversation with the artist, and suddenly they’re engaged in an interview, they mock each other, and find comfort in the darkness. It is perhaps a surreal experience, but there is light within their dark work. Autobiographical and haunting, it reminds us the perils of having a creative mind, and how artists can create work without actually having anything to show for it other than hands stained by the paintbrushes they once used.

A strange, surreal experience, but one that deserves a look into for those with a curious mind and an understanding of an artist’s desire to be their art.

Botallack O’Clock is playing at the Gilded Balloon until the 27th August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.

Originally published on A Younger Theatre.