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Picasso (Susan Elkin reviews)

This curate’s egg of a show is the inaugural production at The Playground Theatre, an engaging new space in NW10 artistically directed by Anthony Biggs and Peter Tate. It’s a former bus depot, and once you’ve found it, it’s hard not to be captivated by the venue.

Peter Tate himself plays Picasso in a 70-minute play by the late Terry d’Alfonso which focuses on Picasso’s insatiable, and often ruthless, appetite for women and the effects it had on his art. Tate is a cerebral actor who listens intently so that attention is always expertly focused where it needs to be. On the other hand, this is meant to be a man who had women – dozens, hundreds maybe – happy to succumb to him. None of that sexual charisma comes across here. Instead we see a curmudgeonly, often very cruel man treating women appallingly and you’re left wondering why they don’t simply walk away.

Three women appear with Picasso as wives and mistresses in this four hander. Alejandra Costa is outstanding as Jacqueline Roque to whom he was married for the last twelve years of his life. She is variously needy, cunning, devastated, manipulative and passionate. The strength of her performance, though, tends to overshadow both Adele Oni and Genevieve Laporte and Claire Bowman as Marie-Therese Walter.

Some of the background to the story – featuring three other actors – is clumsily presented via video behind the action as if it were memories unfolding. Not a good directorial decision (director: Michael Hunt) because it simply looks like a cheap, clunky way of trying to widen the action while keeping production costs down. It doesn’t hold up narratively either because we see Tate still being Picasso on screen as he is “now”. Has he not aged since he first married Olga Khokhlova (played on screen by Milena Vukotic) when he was 37?

Other puzzles include the sandpit which forms the set’s main feature. Characters pick up handfuls and make vague shapes. I presume it is meant in some loose way to connote creativity, art and what have you but it takes a big leap of imagination.

First published by Sardines,%20The%20(professional)-Picasso&reviewsID=3030

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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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