Jermyn Street Theatre, London – until 3 February 2018
This deeply fascinating one-woman show brings Peggy Guggenheim’s colourful life vividly to the stage.
It is clear what an extraordinarily colourful life Peggy Guggenheim had, thanks to this richly detailed and researched play by Lanie Robertson. Filled with pain, love, and loss, dotted with stories involving some of the best-known artists of the 20th century, it has plenty to keep the audience interested from beginning to end.
The name Guggenheim might be familiar to those watching the show in relation to a certain New York museum, set up by Peggy’s uncle Solomon R. Guggenheim (and described as “ugly” by Peggy herself in this play) – but what about her legacy to the art world?
Robertson’s Woman Before a Glass is an intelligent and funny examination of Peggy Guggenheim’s life and passion for art, her devotion to her daughter, and her involvement in numerous scandals.
With Erika Rodriguez’s contemporary style set reflecting Peggy’s passion for modern art, Austin Pendleton’s production confidently embraces the character and her lively story in a way that brings the audience as close to being Peggy’s confidant as possible.
The production flows with style and ease, moving from topic and story with supreme confidence that means that time passes extremely quickly. But the audience also gets a sense of how deep they are getting into her life, as the production strips back the humour and concentrates on poignant moments.
Thes include her father’s tragic death while travelling on the Titanic and her unsuccessful marriages, expertly highlighted by Ali Hunter’s lighting.
Throughout, though, it is also a play that concentrates on Peggy’s passion and dedication to modern art, throwing in numerous artist names such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, which might throw those who are less familiar with the art world, but reveals the depth and understanding that Peggy put into the works that she chose to collect.
The script, which is razor sharp throughout, is wonderfully performed by Judy Rosenblatt who really showcases all of the different elements of Peggy Guggenheim’s personality to the full. Whether it is reminiscing about her past while going through her outfits or being frank and honest about the way in which she was treated during her marriages – Rosenblatt delivers a fully rounded performance that is lively and full of depth throughout.
Woman Before a Glass is a deeply fascinating production to watch unfold involving an extraordinary character whose life you want to explore even further after the show finishes. Well worth a watch.