The complex legacy of Pablo Picasso is brought to life in Picasso: Le Monstre Sacré, written by the late Terry D’Alfonso, adapted and directed by Guy Masterson. Peter Tate takes the titular role for this compelling one man show, presenting a textured portrait of the artist and his destructive impact on the many women in his life.
Tate takes to the stage in the Assembly Festival’s Roxy venue with the one man show capturing an unflinching portrait of Picasso, with particular regard to his romantic relationships. Exploring his first love with Olga Khokhlova and their heated relationship, Picasso: Le Monstre Sacré delves into the artist’s fiery and ever-changing romances exploring notable figures including Marie-Thérèse Walter, Françoise Gilot , and the artist’s final lover Jacqueline Roque.
The stage is adorned in a white artist’s sheet handing from the ceiling (which doubles as a multimedia screen), a paint splattered sheet on the floor, singular cushion, and a set of wooden ladders. The minimalist staging allows for Tate’s performance to take centre stage with the actor embodying the ‘holy monster’ with a dynamic intensity. The actor’s performance captures the magnitude of Picasso’s ego and devotion to his art above all else (including the women and children in his life), as well as the way in which his obsession with his craft often destroyed the relationships with those around him. References to The Minotaur, a character known for its power, sexual energy and monstrousness, feel appropriate and Masterson’s production utilises this imagery throughout with powerful effect.
Picasso was the master in all his relationships, yet these were second to his art. Exploring his misogynistic tendencies and haste in recklessly abandoning one lover for another, paints a textured portrait of the challenging artist. Displaying a lustful fascination with the women around him, Tate also taps into Picasso’s charm and romanticism – whilst whimsical and romantic to one object of his affection (Jacqueline receives roses and poems daily), whilst cold and cruel to the others. The flippant and erratic nature of Picasso’s romantic appetite and quick ability to tire with those women is captured impressively by Tate, who deploys impressive skills of characterisation and range to embody the women Picasso collected.
The staging tools of the white sheet allows for the scope and aesthetic of the play to be supported by impressive use of video clips. These capture flickers of Picasso’s romances and relationships, whilst crafting a rich historical context with their impressive period details. The central ladder provides some inventive moments with Picasso fondly standing atop looking at the footage and embracing these memories. A soundtrack of Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps plays at multiple moments, with the narcissistic artist diving into the tango to celebrate one of many newfound loves or conquests, whilst a pillow becomes a prop in the slightly overbearing tendency to showcase Picasso’s narcistic lovemaking techniques.
Peter Tate’s compelling performance captures the complex egoistic persona of Picasso and his reckless treatment of the women in his life. Guy Masteron’s impressive direction bringing the context of the story to life, whilst ensuring this is an absorbing, sharply textured seventy minute piece.
Picasso runs as part of the Assembly Festival. Get tickets here.