The Bakelite Masterpiece - REVIEW PHOTO

The Bakelite Masterpiece asks what is authenticity in art, which even when genuine is merely a replica of reality? Is there something admirable in a good forgery? Playwright Kate Cayley gets to the bottom of matters on Bridgman Avenue this month.


Tarragon Theatre proudly presents the world premiere of The Bakelite Masterpiece, written by Tarragon playwright-in-residence Kate Cayley, directed by Tarragon’s Artistic Director Richard Rose and starring two award-winning, powerhouse actors, Geordie Johnson and Irene Poole. Set in the Netherlands in the aftermath of World War II, this penetrating new play exploring art, forgery and war crimes opens October 29 and runs to November 30, 2014. 1) in Tarragon’s Extraspace.

Amsterdam, 1945. Minor artist and gallery owner Han van Meegeren sits in a holding cell awaiting trial for collaboration with the Nazis. He stands accused of selling a previously unknown painting by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer to none other than Hermann Goering. In his defence, van Meegeren claims that the work (entitled “Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery”) was a total invention – a forgery of Vermeer’s style. Van Meegeren says he purposely conned the Nazi leader – along with the greatest art critics of the time – into believing it was a genuine Vermeer to make a fool of him. Art historian and former resistance fighter Captain Geert Piller has been brought in to investigate. Initially inclined to execute him for treason, Piller decides she has to know for sure whether the prisoner is lying or telling the truth. To save his life, van Meegeren must paint another flawless Vermeer.

Says Cayley: “I wrote this play after coming across a piece in The New Yorker about the art forger Han van Meegeren, investigated as a war criminal in the aftermath of World War Two. He was charged with selling a newly discovered, priceless Vermeer to the occupying Nazis-and claimed he had forged the Vermeer to make the Germans look like idiots (this made him an overnight folk hero).


However, van Meegeren was my jumping off point. Almost all the “plot” of the play is fiction with a tiny kernel of fact. (I like to think that, as a forger, he would appreciate my elasticity with the truth.) I seized on his story as a way to explore art, the cult of authenticity, the nature of Fascism as it relates to aesthetics, and the profound ambiguities of desire and human imagination. This is a play about art, but also about vengeance, justice, redemption, and how what we believe determines what we see.”

“A forger has to sell a work immediately after painting it. After that, it dates. In fifty years, my fallen woman will look like Greta Garbo, and my head of Christ like a Nazi soldier. The forger is so in sympathy with the desires of the present, that he creates exactly what his time would like to believe about the past.”

THE BAKELIGHT MASTERPIECE by Kate Cayley Oct. 21 – Nov 30, 2014 TARRAGON THEATRE’S EXTRASPACE, 30 Bridgman Avenue, Toronto TICKETS $27.00 – $53.00 416-0531-1827 CAST Geordie Johnson and Irene Poole DIRECTOR Richard Rose SET AND COSTUMES Charlotte Dean LIGHTING Andre du Toit

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