Tag Archives: Jonathan Evans

Muse

★★

Camden People’s Theatre

Muse

Muse

Camden People’s Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd August 2019

★★

 

“A more undiluted approach would undoubtedly give a much sharper taste of the man and his muse”

 

“Muse” is a new play based on the life of surrealist photographer Dora Marr and her relationship with Pablo Picasso. Given just a sixty-minute slot as part of the Camden Fringe it cannot hope to be much more than a snapshot of this fascinating and turbulent liaison. Their relationship lasted nearly nine years, during which Picasso held onto his other mistresses; in particular Marie-Thérèse Walter, the mother of his daughter Maya. Picasso was a complicated and multi-layered character whose wives and lovers were absolutely integral to his career; they were very much the subjects that inspired him, and while history neither condones nor condemns his sometimes abusive conduct, it relishes exploring the relationship between the artist and his muse.

Antonia Georgieva’s play follows a long line of dramas that focuses on this theme. But rather than focus on its subjects the lens swoops chaotically, trying to catch a wider angle and cram in too many other personalities. Surrealist poet Paul Éluard and his wife Nusch make cameo appearances, Man Ray gets a mention; the writer Lise Deharne and art critic Françoise Gilot are caught off camera. The result is a blurred portrait that, instead of enticing us to unravel the confusion, is not particularly interesting to look at.

By her own admission, Georgieva, who also directs, has opted for an abstract, fragmented telling of the story. The cast, whilst appearing not to know fully what that story is, give committed performances. Sarah Kentish’s Marie-Thérèse Walter stands out with her mix of jealousy towards and superiority over Dora Marr, neatly combining the desire to fight with a weary resignation. But Jahmai Maasai lacks the presence and bullish charisma to portray Picasso. Whether he is trying to reveal the softer side of Pablo is unclear, but you never get a true sense of one of art’s most famous womanisers. He appears weak, especially in the famous episode where, having been confronted by Walter and Marr to choose between them, he tells them to fight it out for themselves.

The peripheral characters are somewhat superfluous, and hugely underwritten. Georgieva gives Claire-Monique Martin’s spirited Nusch Eluard too fleeting an appearance (Nusch is a character who deserves a play to herself) and the others are cruelly relegated to the side-lines.

Pablo Picasso had complicated relationships with many of the women in his life. He either revered them or abused them (famously quoted as saying that “there are only two kinds of women, goddesses or doormats”). He was married twice and had multiple mistresses, often simultaneously, and it can be argued that his sexuality fuelled his art. “Muse” is a generalised account of this fact that gives short shrift to his muses. Blink and you miss a couple of them. A more undiluted approach would undoubtedly give a much sharper taste of the man and his muse.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Timna Lugstein

 


Camden Fringe

Muse

Camden People’s Theatre until 25th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Le Misanthrope | ★★½ | June 2018
Ouroboros | ★★★★ | July 2018
Did it Hurt? | ★★★ | August 2018
Asylum | ★★★ | November 2018
George | ★★★★ | March 2019
Mojave | ★★★ | April 2019
Human Jam | ★★★★ | May 2019
Hot Flushes – The Musical | ★★★ | June 2019
The Indecent Musings Of Miss Doncaster 2007 | ★★★½ | August 2019
Form | ★★★★★ | August 2019

 

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The Werewolf Of Washington Heights

★★★★

Cockpit Theatre

The Werewolf Of Washington Heights

The Werewolf Of Washington Heights

Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 19th August 2019

★★★★

 

“The dark themes are illuminated by darker humour which the fearless cast deliver with precision timing”

 

A lone figure, accompanied by Afro-Cuban music and New York police sirens, introduces this intriguing piece in almost total darkness. Seemingly spouting poetic nonsense her words do lodge themselves into our minds to take on their full meaning and resonance later on in the play. She wields torchlight into our faces like a searchlight, symbolising not just her own need, but our collective desire to find answers. It is this quest that steers the narrative that centres on the disappearance of a schoolgirl. Mary has gone missing – she is not the first nor last in this New York Community – but this is not her story. It belongs to those left behind.

Christie Perfetti Williams writes with a sharp eye on the Zeitgeist but is at risk of trying to pack too much into her play, which has transferred from Off-Broadway to form part of the Camden Fringe. Set in the near future it mixes family drama with political statement but seasons it with every ingredient in the modern-day cookbook: themes of immigration, deportation, racism, misogyny, terrorism, civil rights. It is all quite familiar now, yet Perfetti Williams and the all-female cast manage to send tremors through us without breaking new ground.

It is the early 2020s, and America is at war following a New York subway terrorist attack. Authoritarian rule has taken over, immigration discontinued, and the residents of Washington Heights exist in an Orwellian society where curfews are imposed, and rights deposed. In the wake of Mary’s disappearance, a television reporter and her (refugee) camerawoman come to interview the mother and her wife, along with Mary’s twin sister, aunt, grandmother and neighbour. Each character has their own take on the story, encompassing the full range of emotional reactions while the reporter merely looks for sensational soundbites. The performances are outstanding across the board, especially Maggie, the missing girl’s “half white, half Jewish, half black” twin sister who mixes on-the-cusp autism with a deranged sassiness that makes her the most acutely aware character.

Perfetti Williams’ script does not shy away from profanity, which helps give it its rawness and honesty. The dark themes are illuminated by darker humour which the fearless cast deliver with precision timing. As with most shows on the Camden Fringe, none of the performers are named or credited, which is a shame here as each one deserves a mention. The acting is as insightful as the writing. The only moment that jars is a rather disjointed and superfluous dance piece during which two of the cast parade the stage in wolf heads. Its purpose is unclear and rather than add to the sense of mystery it merely breaks the spell. The magic of this play lies within the language – visual metaphors are unnecessary.

We do eventually discover what happened to Mary. However, it is the journey there; the exposition that eclipses the coda. It is a gripping drama; both panoramic and intimate. It makes fantasy real and chillingly reminds us how the perils of society are prowling amongst us, like packs of wolves; in the dark but ever present.

 

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Andrew McGlade

 


Camden Fringe

The Werewolf Of Washington Heights

Cockpit Theatre until 23rd August as part of Camden Fringe 2019

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Unbelonger | ★★★½ | November 2018
L’Incoronazione Di Poppea | ★★★★ | January 2019
Mob Wife: A Mafia Comedy | ★★★ | January 2019
Cheating Death | ★★ | February 2019
Bed Peace: The Battle Of Yohn & Joko | ★★★ | April 2019
Lysistrata | ★★ | June 2019
Much Ado About Not(h)Ing | ★★★ | June 2019
Alpha Who? | ★★★ | August 2019
Bombshells | ★★★½ | August 2019
The Ideal Woman | ★★ | August 2019

 

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