Van Badham’s 2003 play Still Life with a Dead Artist is a cultural who-dunnit, spanning generations and ranging in topic from authenticity and art to infidelity and monogamy.
The play takes place in two timezones, but in the same house. In 2002 a detective sergeant (Lindy) stumbles from a room after finding two long-dead bodies. In 1947 a young artist enters the same house, on a mission to find one of his artistic heroes. At first, the location seems the only thing these two events have in common but, as the play progresses, links start to be made.
Still Life with a Dead Artist is an intriguing play, a little bit too close to all the cop shows TV is plagued with for my taste, but with enough depth and societal commentary to make it work.
When Lindy’s boss tells her she needs to take some time out and go on stress leave, it’s with a promise that he’ll recommend her for his job when he retires in a year.
LINDY: I won’t know what to do with myself.
BRIAN: Try and work out why an eighty year old man and his middle-aged daughter cuddled up and passed ’round the ratpoison instead of the Earl Grey.
LINDY: Coroner ruled suicide.
BRIAN: No doubt.
LINDY: What are you asking?
BRIAN: Exercise the muscle while you’re on the bench and come back in form as star striker next season. I’m 59, I’ve quit smoking, drinking, sugars, saturated fats and Sharon Stone movies because I’ve had one cardiac and I’m terrified of bloody dying. Less than ten miles away from me, two people throw themselves into the very pit I’m trying to crawl out of and my existential curiosity wants an answer. I’ll see you in three months.
In order not to have to face her miserable relationship with her husband and her daughter’s resentment, Lindy busies herself with the double suicide.
Back in 1947, Elisabeth is married to a famous artist who treats her like a servant. The only person who seems to appreciate her is her husband’s new assistant and protege, Carl.
ELISABETH: I was a Jew, the Nazis were coming and I had a chance to get out of Austria. He needed a nurse for his children and I needed papers. My family died, all of them. I survived because he bought me as a wife! Like he’d buy a whore or a pig or a – (she sobs)
Not yet published. Available as a PDF.
Cast: 6F, 6M (some doubling, could be played with 9F, 6M)