In Clay ★★★★★ Upstairs at the Gatehouse | Mar 13 - Apr 7, 2024

Can you really make a musical about a woman throwing a pot? Well, if you're Rebecca Simmonds and Jack Miles you can ... and a very entertaining one as well! In Clay is based on the life of Marie-Berthe Cazin, a little known French ceramicist who was born in 1872 and died in 1971. Both she and her work have been largely overshadowed by her more famous father-in-law, Jean-Charles Cazin, and her husband, Michel Cazin. However, this polished and perceptive production puts the spotlight back on the often overlooked female artist working in an under-appreciated medium. It brings to life a woman whose creations were often misrepresented as being by her husband and who in this piece compares herself and her career to that of her more famous contemporary, Henrietta Tirman. This is a bijou production without the 76 trombones or all that jazz. It is a subtle and possibly self-reflective study exploring the artist's vocation while raising some fascinating questions about the reasons for creating art and the definition of an artist. Like the work of Cazin herself, this show is unpretentious and rewarding in proportion to the time one spends considering it. Rosalind Ford puts in an outstanding performance that ultimately makes it all work. She rings completely true as a woman confronted by a male dominated world which prioritises painting and sculpture and which celebrates fame. Her own questions and struggles as she moulds her art and her career are beautifully presented, and as Cazin wrestles with both her ego and her ambition, she comes to represent every artist who has struggled in obscurity. The show is complemented by a small exhibition of female ceramicists in an adjoining gallery. It is definitely worth a visit and takes on added meaning from this first-rate portrait of the artist as a young woman.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Felix Mosse

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