by Chloe Billington
originally published on Theatre News
With the largest retrospective of Dora Maar’s work currently showing at Tate Modern, Muse is a timely piece of theatre about the surrealist photographers tumultuous affair with Pablo Picasso.
‘I was your weeping woman. You took my tears, my pain, my sanity, my art…But I won’t weep for you anymore.’
In the intimate space of the Tristan Bates Theatre, the cast, dressed in sepia tones are sorting through the belongings of Dora Maar. Through movement, fragments of scenes and interlocking voices, director and play-write Antonia Georgieva recounts a fascinating love affair between two artists. Picasso, it must be said, doesn’t come out of it well.
Aslant Theatre company sets out to ‘flip the dominant narrative’ in re-visting the past to hear familiar stories from different angle. It might not seem easy to turn the tables on the distinctly imbalanced relationship between one of the Western worlds most famous artist and his muse – that is until you discover more about this muse, the woman in the paintings.
It turns out that Dora Maar was highly intelligent, and ambitious – a feisty and independent young woman when they met, and in many ways the perfect match for Picasso. There are some crackling scenes where she vehemently defends the power of photography versus art. She is not the only woman in his life over the decade they were involved, in fact Picasso continued to live with his previous lover, Marie Therese Walter and their child for many years.
Denitza Zafirova gives an intelligent performance as Dora and Sarah Kentish as Marie Therese has a convincing desperation as she pleads with Dora to save herself when he callously abandons her and her child. Broadly speaking there is something muted about the whole production, as if the cast haven’t quite been given the courage to truly inhabit their parts. That said, it’s an elegant production with some fabulous dialogue and a fascinating slice of personal history.
Photo credit: Ali Wright
This piece was originally published on November 24, 2019 on Theatre News.