by Shyama Perera
originally published on My Theatre Mates
MUSE ★★★★ Camden People’s Theatre Til 25 August 2019, 7.15pm
It is interesting that Camden People’s Theatre is running two, unconnected, shorts each evening, both exploring issues around women and the grief many experience when love goes wrong. With Ophelia Rewound, we don’t need to know the story of Shakespeare’s heroine to recognise an exploration of the psyche. With Antonia Georgieva’s play for Aslant Theatre, MUSE, however, a level of context at the beginning of the piece would make all the difference as it is a close examination of the tension between artist, Pablo Picasso, and muse, Dora Maar.
Maar was and is a celebrated photographer and artist in her own right. The play is about her years with Picasso, inspiring his Cubist period and some of his best-known works. Like her predecessors, Maar was embraced, posed, painted, and then rejected by the artist. That is underscored in this production which is directed and lit like a series of photographs. Cara Evans’ set and costumes are a delight. The terrific ensemble cast – Denitza Zafirova, Jahmai Masai, Zoe Lambrakis, Sarah Kentish, Harry Kingscott and Claire-Monique Martin – is tight, and well-choreographed by movement director Mandy Gordon.
Where MUSE falls down a little, despite some excellent exchanges between artist and muse, is that the writer can’t decide where to put the emphasis – on Maar or on Picasso – and, by being even-handed, there isn’t enough of either for us to bite on. Instead of the intellectual and sexual tension being played against each other, the discourse trumps the intercourse. Nonetheless, there is enough good writing and direction to mark Georgieva as one to watch.
This piece was originally published on August 23, 2019 on My Theatre Mates.