Globe kicks off with intriguing mystery

Thursday, February 8

A strong cast, clever staging, and superb language combine in an intriguing mystery, as the Globe Theatre kicks off its 2024 season with Tom Stoppard’s Artist Descending A Staircase.

The play centres on three ageing avant-garde artists, life-long friends and roommates — Donner, who lies dead at the bottom of the stairs; Martello and Beauchamp, who accuse each other of pushing him.

In a series of flashbacks that take the trio as far back as 1914, when they go on an ill-advised "walking holiday" in France, as the German divisions roll past, a story of love, loss and artistic hubris unfolds.

Directed by Sheena Townsend, the cast of Artist Descending A Staircase is divided into two groups — Craig Storey, Cheyne Jenkinson, and Brent Caldwell take the roles of the sadly diminished older Beauchamp, Martello and Donner, while Jackson Rosie, Thomas Makinson, and Daniel Cromas play their ebullient younger selves. Louisa Stabenow plays the tragic Rosie, a beautiful young blind woman whose affections are won by one of the artists, but is it the right one?

The entire cast is superb, giving nuanced performances that bring forth the emotional turmoil of their characters, while making the most of Stoppard’s wonderful words.

Set design by Townsend cleverly depicts the artists’ loft at various stages of their lives, and spot-on sound design by Storey and Stabenow adds important elements to the story.

Costumes by Rosemary Manjunath give a sense of the early-to-mid 20th century lives of the artists.

All in all, The Globe Theatre’s production of Artist Descending A Staircase is beautifully done, creating an intriguing and absorbing theatre experience. Recommended.

The play continues until Saturday.