Woman Before a Glass at Jermyn Street Theatre
“Modern Art is Living Art,” Peggy Guggenheim declares, while explaining her duty to save as many creations as possible by the artists of the 20th century. The niece of Solomon R Guggenheim was the patron of the likes of Kandinsky, Pollock, Ernst and more.
Leading a Bohemian life in Venice – in what is now the modern art museum on the Grand Canal in Italy – Mrs Guggenheim was at the centre of numerous scandals. Nonetheless, the relevance of her patronage towards unknown and unpopular artists of the time has since remained undiscussed. Without her buying these artworks or paying for their creators’ expenses, these pieces of art would have been lost in the bombs and Nazi destruction of the Second World War.
Opening its Scandal season with Woman Before a Glass, the Jermyn Street Theatre makes a bold statement – interestingly enough, not far from the Guggenheim Jeune itself, which featured some of the modern artists for the first time in London – by questioning the relevance still given today, or not, to emerging and original creatives.
In an imaginative dialogue with the audience, Peggy relives the high and lows of her career, the lovers, the griefs over the deaths of her family members, and the fears for the only thing now left to her: her artist daughter Pegeen. The one-woman show unfortunately doesn’t deliver in the final act. The missed crescendo and the lack of real actions throughout the play diminish the power of the central theme and the piece itself.
Divided into approximately three main parts, the script expresses the reasoning and arguments of the woman who has to hand over her “children”, which is what she calls the vast collection gathered over decades against all the odds. Despite the licentious details of Peggy’s memoirs, the plot is rather feeble. The stage movements are quite limited, and the dialogues have only the hidden presence of cameramen first, Pegeen second, and then the Tate’s curator.
Judy Rosenblatt is absolutely hilarious as Peggy, cracking jokes every other line, particularly in the first part. Special credit goes to writer Lanie Robertson for bringing audiences this significant, lesser-known story. In the intricate web of rumours about her immoral behaviour, Peggy Guggenheim exceptionally supported modern artists when no one believed in them: a fact we should be strongly reminded of today.
Photo: Robert Workman
Woman Before a Glass is at Jermyn Street Theatre from 17th January until 3rd February 2018, for further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.