Why have so few of us heard of Dora Maar, the French artist who was also the muse of Pablo Picasso? We talked to writer and director Antonia Georgieva about the need to “re-tell and re-member” the stories of women from the past, which she’s doing with Aslant Theatre Company and its debut play. Time to get booking!
MUSE, written and directed by Aslant Theatre Company founder Antonia Georgieva, runs at Camden’s People’s Theatre from 22 to 24 August 2019 during Camden Fringe and then transfers to Tristan Bates Theatre from 19 to 23 November 2019 to coincide with a major Tate Modern exhibition about Dora Maar.
In a Parisian café, a young, raven-haired woman plays a dangerous game. The year is 1936. The fascist regimes that will soon lead to WWII and the unravelling of Europe are on the rise.
Based on the life of surrealist photographer Dora Maar and her relationship with Pablo Picasso, Aslant Theatre Company’s debut production MUSE explores the inherent violence of the relationship between artist and muse, taking the audience on a surreal journey through time, colours, tears, and fragments.
Denitza Zafirova plays Dora Maar with Jahmai Maasai as Picasso alongside Sarah Kentish, Harry Kingscott, Claire-Monique Martin and Zoe Lambrakis.
Muse runs at Camden People’s Theatre from 22-25 August 2019
Talking to… Antonia Georgieva
Antonia Georgieva is a director and playwright with a particular interest in directing new work as well as adaptations and site-specific work. She began her training as a director during her BA at Columbia University and is currently completing her MFA at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She has worked on a variety of productions for both theatrical and non-theatrical spaces involving a wide range of production sizes — from directing one-woman shows to heading a site-specific production of Hamlet with a cast and team of 80 people. As the founder of a new female-led collective Aslant Theatre Company, she has a keen artistic interest in reimagining the classical canon and challenging the way we remember history.
Tell us more about Aslant & your mission.
Aslant Theatre Company was founded with the intention of producing both new works and imaginative interpretations of the classical repertoire. More broadly, we are conscious of who gets to speak, especially in literature or on stage, and we aim to give a voice to those who have been in some way historically “aslant” and to show a different perspective on the stories that we know. The company’s slogan – “Re-tell and re-member” – indicates our goal of revisiting the past.
We want to make work that challenges the way we remember and tell history.
The human urge to understand our present through our past will often have us returning to the same familiar stories that make up the classical canon, so perhaps now more than ever it’s important to keep reinventing it and rediscovering it to unearth the stories of great women like Dora Maar or Emilia Bassano, to give another recent example. In that sense, MUSE is the perfect debut piece for us, as it sheds light on a woman from history that a lot of people might not know about.
How did you first become familiar with Dora Maar & her work?
It was only through the process of writing this play that I encountered her work. I, like many others I imagine, had not heard of her. Hopefully, with this major retrospective exhibition at Tate Modern and pieces like MUSE things will change and she will be recognised more widely as the amazing photographer and artist that she was.
Do you have a favourite piece by Maar?
That’s really hard to say – her work was quite diverse and covered a wide range of themes and emotions. I do remember being most impressed by her portraits of model Assia Granatouroff, which are referenced in the play, so I guess you have to come and see the play to hear what about them is so fascinating!
Why did you want to write a play about her?
I started writing the play over a year and a half ago now. At the time, I had no idea that the Tate retrospective would be happening, so in that regard, we have been very lucky. In its original version, the play was going to be a story about all the significant lovers in Picasso’s life and the destruction surrounding those relationships. However, soon enough, the figure of Dora Maar began to emerge as the one I was most interested in, and I decided to centre the story around her life.
How much research did you do when writing the play?
I usually do more extensive research before I start writing, but once I get a good sense of the world and the characters and find my way into the story, I try to avoid doing further research apart from quick fact checks. I feel very strongly that, even though the play is based on historical figures and real events, I am still creating a work of fiction.
Tell us about your cast.
We’ve got a cast with really diverse training and experiences working around the world, including New York, Chicago and Paris. They all bring a wide range of skills to the table from classical training to Le Coq movement training. I’m really humbled to be working with all of them and can’t wait to share the work we’ve been doing together.
Why did you want to first stage MUSE at Camden Fringe?
I find that the Fringe is a great place to test out bold new ideas and learn from the audience’s reactions. It’s also a great way for us to get our audiences excited about the kind of work we do. I am particularly curious to see what results the eclectic approach of the directorial team as a whole will be. For our second run at the Tristan Bates in November, it will give us the opportunity to develop the world of the play further in the way it manifests physically on stage.
What’s next for you?
For our next iteration of MUSE coming up in November, we would love for our audience to come again to see how the piece will have evolved by then. After that, we will be developing a new piece, this time around adapted from a classical work.
As part of this year’s Camden Fringe, MUSE runs from 22 to 25 August 2019 at Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Rd, Kings Cross, London NW1 2PY with performances at 7.15pm except 25 August at 5.30pm. Tickets are priced £12. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Full festival programme
For details on all 300+ shows in the 2019 Camden Fringe programme, visit the festival websiteClick here