So, I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to art. I like a picture which is easy to look at and is filled with images and things I can recognise without too much thought. For this reason, I have never really got over excited by what is thought of a ‘Modern Art’. A couple of blue boxes on a canvas, to me, represents two blue boxes on a canvas and nothing else. The reason I mention all of this is that i think it is safe to say, that I have never really understood or appreciated the majority of the work of Pablo Picasso, and thus have largely ignored him. However, it turned out that Picasso not only produced interesting art but was also a playwright and wrote two plays, the first of which Desire Caught by the Tail has received its London premiere at Clapham’s Bread and Roses Theatre.
Desire Caught by the Tail is one of those shows that starts before it begins. As we took our seats, the cast were assembled, sat on the front row and the set was laid out, complete with a massive table in front of the stage containing a whole range of everyday objects – bananas, carrots, printed manuscript, a sword, a soup maker, etc, etc, etc. As the lights go down, a disembodied voice (Cradeaux Alexander) introduces each of the actors (Clare Almond, Natasha Colenso, Eldi Dundee, Hugh Leadon and Molly Ward) and the characters each of them will be playing – Big Foot,Tart, Onion, Round End, Cousin, Silence, Fat Anguish, Skinny Anguish and The Curtains – and the show starts.
Desire Caught by the Tail was written over the course of three days in 1941 and is comprised of a series of scenes and monologues rather than having a standard linear plot. The story – such as it is – makes use of a variety of different language and performance styles. It has been described as both surreal and simply weird and is acknowledged to be almost impossible to put on, something I can really understand. At the end, I can honestly say I had no real idea what had happened and my initial thought was that Picasso should have stuck to the painting and sculpting. However, there were elements to the performance that were really good and the monologues in particular were very gripping with a wonderful use of language that I wish had been replicated throughout.
Okay, so forgetting the non-story, let’s have a look at the production itself. It was obviously a very brave decision of Luxe, the production company, to put on the show and Director Cradeaux Alexander has assembled a fine cast and put together a fascinating production that really comes together surprisingly well. I was particularly impressed with the age range of the actors involved as it is always great to see older actors in productions. A quick mention for one of the high points of the show, Hugh Leadon’s wonderfully delivered monologue about his cook which was really enthralling. The cast worked extremely well together and looked very at ease with each other and the audience as they went through the various scenes, making use of a massive number of props in the process. I also have to mention Cradeaux Alexander’s spoken narration. Alexander has a really lovely voice and his contribution to the entire show should not be overlooked.
I’m glad I saw Desire Caught by the Tail, and I do think it is something worth seeing, if only to give an audience the chance to re-assess what they expect and want from a theatrical production. Whilst, on the whole, this definitely wasn’t my sort of production from a story/script/narrative point, I do think this is a fascinating and extremely well put together production delivered by a really good cast.
Review by Terry Eastham
Directed by Cradeaux Alexander, LUXE premieres Desire Caught by the Tail, a rarely-produced play by Pablo Picasso.
Written in Paris in 1941 under the Occupation, Desire Caught by the Tail had its first public reading in 1944, which was directed and produced by Albert Camus and featured performances by Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Leiris, and Raymond Queneau among others.
With characters including The Tart, The Onion, Big Foot, Thin Anxiety and Silence, Picasso’s play is a play of misery, discomfort, anguish, hunger and passion which is caught in the impossibility of its fulfilment. It is bawdy, burlesque, outrageous and funny, with a lyrical spoken language which incorporates high poetics and absurdist juxtapositions.
LUXE is pleased to premiere this largely unknown theatrical gem to London audiences. In 2016 we are faced with a multitude of complex positions and relationships within modern warfare, nationalism and social battlegrounds. The absurdity of annihilation is a constant thread in Picasso’s 1941 play; as such it remains chillingly and determinedly relevant to us all in 2016. http://www.luxe.org.uk/
Desire Caught by the Tail
by Pablo Picasso – directed by Cradeaux Alexander
Wednesday 17th to Saturday 20th August 2016 at 7.30pm
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