South Hill Park Arts Centre
South East England

Adam Marsh: A throne is only a bench covered in velvet

Our class-obsessed society categorises people by income, education, taste and even choice of food and drink, as reflected in the different seats available in a theatre. The very rubbish left under and on the seats gives an indication of the class and taste of the theatre-goer. Adam Marsh’s installation A throne is only a bench covered in velvet in the Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park, reflects on class stereotypes, placing – for example – ceramic beer bottles, drinks cans and ashtrays near the cheaper seats and the wherewithal for afternoon tea in the stalls.

Every object is made with equal expertise and perfection. All are beautifully made – thrown, fired and glazed – with no ridges in the wrong places. You long to touch them, and they fit your hand as they fitted the hand of the maker. They are touch made solid.

The vessels have a range of surfaces and glazes – pure smooth white (glowing in the light as porcelain does), shiny black, lustrous gold, sandpaper brown – like a Giorgio Morandi painting come to life. The installation is an enactment of a thesaurus entry for pot and dish, with ceramic plates, mugs, bowls, cans, bottles, kegs and flagons of all shapes and sizes, including objects usually made of metal and glass – drinks cans, beer bottles and watering cans.

When you first enter the theatre it seems to be empty, but you start to find mugs and dishes clustered under the seats and left precariously on arm rests. They stand for the groups of friends, family and acquaintances that congregate together at the theatre; they are also the remnants they leave behind them.

Adam Marsh draws attention away from the usual focal point in a theatre – the stage – towards the seats. The invisible audience and their ceramic avatars become the performers; the stage is empty.

Cally Trench, October 2011