Picasso at the Playground Theatre
The Playground Theatre is London’s newest stage, presenting Picasso by Terry d’Alfonso, the story of one of modern art’s most famous painters. Though Picasso was known primarily for his painting techniques, he was also a prolific printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright.
As advertised on the production programme, the venue “aims to create risk-taking theatre”, which is the initial impression, as we are sat in front of a large circle on the floor filled with sand, beside which stand three wooden chairs at either side, and a large screen at the back.
Picasso (Peter Tate) enters, centre stage, with his arms held in a fashion that distinctly resembles a matador. Three women arrive after, covered in black cloths, hiding their identity. This is reflective of the real-life relationships and affairs Picasso had with innumerable women, trying to hide them from each other. Each of the three females depict the women who had a relationship with him, at one point or another. Geneviève Laporte (Adele Oni) is an infatuated journalist and poet, besotted by the Spaniard who resided in France for most of his life. Laporte meets the painter when she is 24 and he 70. She is evidently upset at him, exclaiming, “Your women or your art?”, though, despite the age difference and her frustrations, she cannot stay away from him.
The artist’s maturity in age did not deter him from his promiscuities, and both wives knew of this trait. The play depicts Picasso as an obdurate misogynist, one of his many declarations being, “…One poodle resembles another, and the same goes for women”. It is then surprising that with such disparaging comments, the women were practically throwing themselves at him; one can’t help but wonder if it was for love or wealth. Marie-Thérèse (Claire Bowman) is portrayed well, accentuated by raw emotions. Bowman’s unadulterated exasperations provide an intense insight into one of Picasso’s lovers who committed suicide. Likewise, Alejandra Costa’s Jacqueline is depicted very well, the likely contender for the strongest of the night’s performances.
Through tonight’s production, it is a wonder why so many women cared that deeply about a man who only sought them predominantly for his carnal pleasures. Emotionally, Picasso was at two extremes, either affectionate or overbearing to the point of violence. It is also surprising that the relationship between the painter, Olga and Dora Maar are not portrayed on stage, instead shown through acting in video footage. There is potential to see Picasso’s life as an artist, rather than focussing on the more melodramatic aspects with one-dimensional female characters, but procuring permissions and licences for his work may have been a problem.
Picasso is at the Playground Theatre from 1st until 25th November 2017. For further information or to book visit the Playground Theatre website here.