A Picasso!

Dates and Venue 15 - 31 October 2009, 8pm | Presentation House, North Vancouver

Director Rachel Ditor Stage Manager Karen Griffin Set & Costume Design Drew Facey Lighting Design Kyla Gardiner Sound Design Michael Rinaldi

Reviewer John Jane

Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s 2005 taut drama, A Picasso appears to take at least part inspiration from Pierre Daix’s non-fiction work, ''Pablo Picasso: Dossiers de la Préfecture de Police.” Set in a dank bunker in a Paris sector under German military occupation on the 24th of October, 1941. It was the day before the legendary artist’s sixtieth birthday and a year after his application for French citizenship had been denied.

The play opens with the sound of marching jackboots outside the below ground vault where Pablo Picasso is sitting on a simple wooden straight-back chair waiting for his interrogator to arrive. He doesn’t have to wait for long. His interrogator emerges in the unexpectedly (for Picasso) attractive blonde form of cultural ministry adjunct Miss Fischer.

Miss Fischer (we never hear her given name) has been entrusted with the task of authenticating three confiscated artworks attributed to Picasso and has had the artist detained in order to identify the works as either fake or geniune. What follows is a verbal “cat-and-mouse” game between the two with Fischer slowly being transformed from the artist’s nemesis to his muse. Picasso, though initially repelled by the bureaucrat’s icy demeanour is gradually drawn by Fischer’s beauty and spirit.

Both Andrew Wheeler as Picasso and Christina Schild as Fischer handle Hatcher’s dense dialogue very well. Though, perhaps mainly due to one’s preconceived notions of Picasso, it’s easier to be convinced of Schild’s impeccable Teutonic performance. Wheeler offers the audience none of the artist’s trademark traits and little of the hubris we might expect.

Jesse award winner, Drew Facey’s skilfully detailed set of the dingy basement and Christina Schild’s period specific outfit brings genuine quality to a well-crafted production.

Rachel Ditor’s intelligent direction conciliates most of the Playwright’s inconsistencies and contrivances. She leaves the audience to ponder on the play’s subliminal themes: the nexus between social consciousness and artistic genius and whether a work of art can be political?

© 2009 John Jane