As a cocky young enfant terrible of the Left Bank, Pablo Picasso was arrested on suspicion of stealing the Louvre’s darling in 1911. The experience, by all accounts, shook him up, tempering his terribleness for a bit. Steven Green’s version of events takes this fact and runs with it into the realms of the surreal.
A scene from The Peculiar Tale of Pablo Picasso and The Mona Lisa at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, London Photo: Paul Seaby
On a shiny white, blank canvas of a set by Zahra Mansouri, a shape-shifting cast deliver an amusingly exaggerated tableau of the Parisian art set. Plays on perspective make great visual gags: a teeny front door shown to those leaving Picasso’s garret compares with a cup of coffee the size of a space hopper. The ensemble scenes, including a fluidly choreographed, absinthe-fuelled hallucinatory warning inspired by Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’, are spookily effective. Sherwood Alexander swears, smokes and struts with energy as the brash young Picasso, and Lucia Young is a dignified, passionate and eventually triumphant jilted muse. At times the farce swerves too violently into silliness - Picasso’s tussles with Guillaume Apollinaire and the gendarmes are tiresome - but this portrait of how the artist as a young man given to provocative statements may have kicked off his brilliant career is vividly imagined and cleverly conceived.