Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon spoke to Colette Redgrave about starring in Picasso’s Women at the Gallery Different.
Hi Colette, thanks so much for talking to me. What can you tell me about the story of Picasso’s Women?
Picasso’s Women, written by Brian McAvera, was first performed at the National Theatre in the year 2000. In its 18th anniversary year we are delighted to bring three of the monologues to performances in Edinburgh and London. The original play featured eight women in Picasso’s life and we have decided to focus on Fernande Olivier, Pablo’s first Parisian lover; Olga Khohklova, his first wife; and Marie-Thérèse Walter, the blonde mistress whom he met aged 17. The monologues of all three women candidly discuss their individual relationships with the prolific painter, giving audiences an in-depth view into their lives and his.
What were your first impressions of the play when you first read it?
I first read the play aged 19 whilst studying at London Studio Centre. I performed a short extract of Jaqueline Roque’s monologue – Pablo Picasso’s second wife. My immediate impression then was how well they would work in an art gallery, almost as if the women were looking at themselves in a gallery of Picasso’s artwork. A few years later I am playing his first wife, Olga and realising my vision of producing the pieces in art gallery spaces.
Could you tell me a bit more about your character Olga?
Olga Stepanovna Khokhlova, born in the Ukraine in 1891, is somewhat of an enigma in Picasso’s line up of women. Unlike Fernande and Marie-Thérèse she was not forthcoming in her own personal illustrations on her life with Picasso. She gave few interviews, if any, and there are no written memoirs or biographies to refer to. Olga left home at age 21 to travel across the world and realise her dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer. Not only was she older than average to make this career choice, she travelled to Italy in 1912 – as a woman I find this remarkable, admirable and in many ways unthinkable. This determination is integral to her character in my opinion.
Did you do research into Olga’s background and her relationship with Picasso to gain an insight into what she was like? Yes, I did to a certain extent, given the issues as explained above in the lack of direct resources. One of our Patrons Professor Elizabeth Cowling has written a number of books on Picasso and curated the ‘Picasso Portraits’ exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and Musee Picasso in 2016 & 2017. This exhibition brought together one of the largest collections of photos and videos of Olga with Picasso which were leant to the exhibition by Bernard Ruiz-Picasso who owns the family home – Chateau Boisgeloup in France. Some of these photos have recently featured at the Tate EY Exhibition – ‘Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame & Tragedy’. I have read and continue to read biographies and auto-biographies surrounding Picasso and am currently reading Francoise Gilot’s account of her life with him, which is fascinating.
What can audience’s expect from the production? Feedback from audiences so far is that the monologues are incredibly touching, thought provoking and reveal a different side to the women that have been immortalised in paint, sculpture, sketch, print and many other forms of art. Despite the show running an hour and half, many of our audiences were quite amazed how quickly it felt the monologues ran as they are so insightful, you are left wanting to know more.
How do you think that by presenting Picasso’s Women in the Gallery Different will add to the experience? We are hugely proud to announce that we have collaborated with Gallery Different and Rebecca Fontaine-Wolfe who have co-curated an art Exhibition entitle ‘Muse, Model or Mistress’ which features 31 Female Artists some of whom have produced artwork specifically inspired by Brian’s writing. Irene Lees in particular has produced two portraits with textual pencil, creating art with words. We wanted to achieve a full collaboration with the art industry to try and immerse our audience in a world of theatrical performance that is inspired and lead by art.
What do you think audiences will take away from Picasso’s Women? I hope that they will be given a glimpse into the lives of these women who lived and ‘endured’ Picasso – the artwork that is so famous worldwide captures the women in Picasso’s point of view, however these monologues give Fernande, Olga and Marie-Thérèse a voice alongside some fantastic artwork. It opens a very relevant discussion about the women behind the lives of a number of famous creative artists as critical support and their role in the development of art, so often overlooked by the critics, biographers and reviewers.
By Emma Clarendon
Picasso’s Women will play at Gallery Different from the 24th to the 29th September. For more information visit: https://www.gallerydifferent.co.uk/home