‘A bravura start to the venue’s Rebels season’: ABOUT LEO – Jermyn Street Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

Jermyn Street Theatre, London – until 29 September 2018

What does a woman have to do to be appreciated on her own merits? Be a leading surrealist painter? Be a founding member of the women’s movement in the country where she lives? Write several successful books? Leonora Carrington may not be the best known of names but she deserves more than being known as someone who had an affair with Max Ernst.

Such is the set-up for Alice Allemano’s impressive debut play About Leo. Wannabe journalist Eliza Prentice rocks up at Carrington’s Mexico City residence in order to secure an interview for a retrospective of Ernst’s work but is soon disabused of the notion that she was a mere ‘muse’. And over a long night, as tea turns into tequila, stories of love and loss and art and aspiration reveal a hugely fascinating figure.

And far from providing a straight-up biopic, Michael Oakley’s production of Allemano’s play is something much more interesting. Past and present are staged at the same time, older Leonora’s memories eliding into direct action, younger Leonora’s intensity unable to be conveyed through words alone. Adding to the hallucinatory sense of a dream are juddering images of people with animal heads with Amy Mae’s vivid lighting and Matt Eaton’s growling sound contributing to a wonderfully weird mood.

Erika Paola Rodriguez Egas’ set design also does wonders in creating the space for dual timelines, as Susan Tracy and Phoebe Pryce’s older and younger selves occupy the stage almost uninterruptedly. Tracy, in particular, is superb at conveying the multitudinous layers to a life well lived, as interested in drawing out Eliza’s own personal history as in delving into her own. And Eleanor Wyld as Eliza strikes a vivid presence next to her, her initial cheeriness masking her own secrets.

A bravura start to the Jermyn Street’s Rebels season then, and one definitely worth catching.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Robert Workman
About Leo is booking at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 29th September
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Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on FacebookIan Foster on RssIan Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."

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