BWW Review: MUSE, Camden People's Theatre
Dora Maar was Pablo Picasso's muse for about nine years across the mid-1930s and 1940s before she was discarded like most of his other women. She was dragged into the Cubist's radical life, made to fight physically for his attention with his partner (and mother to his daughter Marie), and went on to inspire many of his most notable works. Aslant Theatre Company explore what it means to act as inspiration and the sacrifice required by artistic creation in their new play Muse, written and directed by Antonia Georgieva.
Denitza Zafirova and Jahmai Maasai are Dora and Picasso. From their casual first encounter to the parting that caused her a nervous breakdown, they share intense chemistry and passion. She is fierce: she stands up for what she believes both with him and others but ultimately gives into her fascination for him and her devotion takes over.
Maasai juggles detachment and ardour subtly; from spontaneous discussions about art and creation with Dora to his firm resistance to rules and authority, Georgieva makes his presence significant but not overpowering, leaving the spotlight to the women in his life.
The piece introduces the painter as a man of volatile emotions who withdrew from his muses as soon as his impulse to create drained from them. Zafirova's Dora starts the show playing with this power dynamic but, through movement (coordinated elegantly by Mandy Gordon) and visually evocative storytelling, the director begins her slow and subtle descent.
The chorus (Claire-Monique Martin, Harry Kingscott, Sarah Kentish, and Zoë Lambrakis) is ever present on the scene, acting as both spectators and raconteurs of the tragic relationship. As a whole, the play presents a polished script that flows steadily in delicate progression and clever staging that lightly evokes canvases, engaging the audience's imagination to fill in the visual blanks of its neutral tones with colour.
The company is soft in their delivery and come together as one to unveil the tale behind these colossal artistic names, and the disenchantment they detained in their own lives.