Picasso ★★ The Playground Theatre | Jan 25 - Feb 4, 2023

How do we react to an artist whose creativity is undeniable but whose behaviour or views might be objectionable? Can we separate a person's life from their work? These are questions that frequently arise and are certainly present when one looks at the life of Pablo Picasso, whose treatment of women was problematic to say the least. Picasso, the play, refers to this compelling conundrum, but it fails to really address the issue. There is a suggestion that some of the artist's motivations might be traced to his relationship with his mother, but the insight seems to end there. This is a show that chronicles Picasso's relationships, but it does not really question or analyse them. Peter Tate presents the artist as a bombastic, egocentric individual who displays little insight into himself and even less sensitivity or vulnerability. It is a rather monochromatic portrait. What is essentially a summary and recitation of Picasso's various liaisons is punctuated by characterisations of the mistresses who all seem to have rather similar voices and mannerisms. They never emerge as individuals, although they are described as being very different and playing different roles in his life. Equally bothersome is when Tate moves from being Picasso to acting as a narrator commenting on the artist's life. While it is obviously not the painter who is speaking about his death and the price garnered by his works after that death, the only suggestion that we are dealing with a different persona is the switch from first person to third person pronouns. Picasso is undoubtedly a great artist and a controversial human being, but this presentation of him fails to come to terms with the fascinating complexity and frustrating contradictions.

Rated: ★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Brigitta Scholz-Mastroianni Nux Photography.

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