Moving performances, and beautiful direction from Marcia Carr, make Picasso’s Women my favourite Fringe show of 2018.
The Fruitmarket Gallery becoming a Fringe venue for the first time in 2018 is a lucky occurrence for Picasso’s Women, as it’s the combination of the show and the venue that make it a truly unforgettable experience – and my favourite Fringe show of the year.
Over the course of 90 minutes, three women – Fernande Olivier (Judith Paris), Olga Khokhlova (Colette Redgrave) and Marie-Thérèse Walter (Kirsten Moore) – tell the stories of their life with the famous painter and womanizer Pablo Picasso. Told chronologically (as the women appeared in Picasso’s life), the three individual monologues are long but have more than enough detail within them to entertain for their duration, especially if the material is new to you and you know little about the the artist’s personal life.
For someone with some prior knowledge of his history, little is revealed – but the actors still hold your attention through consistently moving performances of the women who both enjoyed and suffered whilst crossing paths with Picasso. The actors are further helped by each woman having a signature stage-light colour (matching with at least a detail on their costume) and one signature prop, giving their roles additional character. It is a simple yet beautiful solution for a production of this kind.
Staging a show about Picasso’s treatment of women in a gallery context further involves the audience, who cannot escape their role of (in)directly supporting generally unacceptable behaviour of artists – ‘excused’, perhaps, by their creative divinity. I’m aware this is wishful thinking, but staging the production in a gallery which showcases the artist’s work would, of course, elevate the production even further if the company are ever given the opportunity.
The only thing, in my mind, which lets Picasso’s Women down are the transitions between episodes. While the three monologues are beautifully directed by Marcia Carr, the time in-between is filled by the tech staff preparing the props for the following act. Considering that the audience is sitting very close to the actors and everything is perfectly visible, this practice abruptly and unpleasantly takes the audience out of the story for a couple of minutes. Although only a small detail compared to the duration of the play, it serves as a mood-killer when you’re forced to exit and re-enter Picasso’s world – and it’s entirely possible the company could rehearse smoother, or more stylised, scene changes to keep you immersed in the world.