Roger Hilton CBE, is the subject of Botallack O’Clock a thought-provoking probe into the artist’s creative mind. In 1965, after representing Britain at the Venice Biennale, Hilton moved to the Cornish coastal village of Botallack, where his working routine began to break down, mainly as a result of his increasing addiction to alcohol (which he had long used to creative effect). For the final two years of his life, Hilton took permanently to his bed, where he continued to work, leaning over the side of his bed to paint on sheets of paper laid on the floor. Hilton would work through the night with only his thoughts, his imaginings and a temperamental radio for company.
Botallack O’Clock depicts a suspended hour of the night where Hilton’s past and present combine with his vivid imagination and tenacious personality, giving a humorous and intriguing insight into the mind of a true artist.
Writer Eddie Elks comments, I’m incredibly excited that Botallack O’Clock is returning to London for a proper run. Roger’s thoughts and ideas, much like his paintings, are as relevant and arresting now as they were then. In a letter to his mother, whilst serving in WWII, Roger wondered whether one day his life would be made into a story. I hope he would have approved.
Rose Hilton says, After many years of producing oil paintings of great impact, Roger became physically weaker. In 1972, his downstairs bedroom became his studio. From here, the centre of our household, came orders for fresh paint, food for his small stove and occasionally company – the boys for chess and me for conversations or, shall I say, complaints.
During these last 3 years before his death in 1975 a stream of the most wonderful gouaches appeared. In the play Botallack O’Clock, Roger is played admirably by Dan Frost and written sensitively by Eddie Elks. He is brought to life again.
This isn’t the first time that Elks has written a play based about an artist. It was while researching Stalag Happy, based on Sir Terry Frost, that Elks first heard the name Roger Hilton. Hilton’s name kept cropping up in books, interviews and conversations, usually always connected with an entertaining, intriguing and often shocking story. Elks conceived Botallack O’Clock through staying with Hilton’s widow, Rose, and immersing himself in the Cornish countryside, reading Hilton’s letters and interviews.
On its premiere in 2011, Botallack O’Clock was shortlisted for Time Out Fringe Show of the Year and described as: dazzlingly eloquent…Botallack O’Clock is a stunning miniature; surprising, profound and very very funny. Following its UK successes, the show transferred to New York as part of ‘Brits Off Broadway’.
Botallack O’Clock Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London EC1V 4NJ, Tuesday 12th January – Saturday 6th February 2016