About Leo review at Jermyn Street Theatre, London – ‘a mannered account of a fascinating life’
Not to be confused with Dora Carrington, the Surrealist painter and writer Leonora Carrington’s life was as rich in creative energy and high drama as any member of the Bloomsbury set.
Rejecting her wealthy, stiflingly conventional family, she eloped with the much older painter Max Ernst to Paris before fleeing to Mexico, where she spent the rest of her long life.
The first offering in Jermyn Street Theatre’s Rebels season, About Leo consists of two two-handers separated by almost 70 years punctuated by expressionistic, animalistic tableaux.
Directed by Michael Oakley, Alice Allemano’s debut play relays the facts of Carrington’s extraordinary life but the way in which it is told doesn’t captivate in the way that it could.
Eliza Prentice (Eleanor Wyld), a scatty, eager and annoying young journalist turns up at the mysterious artist’s home in search of the interview that could make her career. It’s hard to believe that the indomitable Leonora would recognise her younger self in her.
Phoebe Pryce is adept at capturing the sensuousness and insatiable curiosity of the Younger Leonora and Susan Tracy’s world-weary, slightly witchy Older Leonora seizes one final chance set the record straight about always having been too busy to have been anyone’s muse, filtered through the finest tequila.
Erika Paola Rodriguez Egas’ design is visually appealing with its cosy kitchen/bohemian love nest and artist’s studio with its red walls. But the highfalutin exchanges between Leonora and Ernst (Nigel Whitmey) are wearying, as if the wildness of Leonora Carrington’s imagination has been overwhelmed by theory.
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