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How to Make Money from Art
The Phoenix Artist Club
17th August 2015

★★★★☆

Publicity image for How to Make Money from Art

Photography provided by Pure Fluke Theatre

Who said romance was dead? There's an app for that, don't you know? Well, several, actually. When Aisling (Fiona Cuskelly) uses one of them to hook blind date Aimes (Anthony Cozens), her sister Sinead (Orla Sanders) does her best to stop her from getting involved, convinced that Aisling is once again wasting her time on a no-hoper. Initially she seems a touch overprotective, but the more time we spend with her, the increasingly dubious her motives seem to become. Sinead's performance artist boyfriend, Oskar (Ben Lydon) is sidelined whilst she digs for dirt on Aimes, convinced that the suited and booted financial adviser may secretly be a banker with a capital W, and he has to be dealt with. If that sounds a little obsessive and weird, well, you'd be right.

Co-playwrights Caroline Byrne and Cathy Rosario have crafted four very genuine characters, all capable of starring in a gentle rom com. You know the type. However, there is a surprising darkness to the plot, and at the other extreme, some sheer farce. How to Make Money from Art is an unexpected little treasure, which initially enthralls us with the strong characterisation and then blindsides us with some ludicrous twists and turns.

Although Aisling and Oskar drive most of the humour, with their artistic careers never taken seriously by anyone other than themselves, they aren't mere two-dimensional protagonists. Oskar may sound overly dramatic as he describes the meaning of his latest piece of performance art, but he believes in its merit. As for Aisling's luridly coloured pinatas, she thinks they inject a little joy into the world. They're depicted as a pair of hippies, equally daft and innocent, but there is far more to them than that. We see this most clearly when Sinead pushes the limits of their tolerance and forces them to reveal other aspects of their personalities.

It's because all the parts are written so credibly that the surreal Scandinavian shift in tone in the final third comes as a complete shock - you just don't expect it from proper, fleshed-out characters. Director Charlotte Peters has a lot of fun with this and really ramps up the pace, whizzing through some odd developments so at the end of them all, once we catch our breath from laughing so hard, we wonder, did that really happen?

The Phoenix Artist Club is a relatively small venue in which to stage a play of this nature, but Peters manages to establish the different sittings with little need for time-consuming set changes. She instead cleverly draws the eye to and from little details, making them irrelevant in one scene, and meaningful in the next.

If you're a starving artist (is there any other kind?) How to Make Money from Art won't actually give you the answer it promises. However it will entertain you, and a proper chuckle always feeds the soul.

How to Make Money from Art opened on 17th August and runs until 20th August 2015 at the Phoenix Artist Club, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern, Central)



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