ED2018 Caro Meets ED2018 Interviews ED2018 Review Edition ED2018 Theatre

Colette Redgrave: Picasso’s Women

By | Published on Sunday 29 July 2018

As I was looking through all the many Edinburgh press releases that hit my inbox in the run up to the Festival, one particular show caught my eye on account of the appropriate nature of the venue: a staging of ‘Picasso’s Women’ in an art gallery – the Fruitmarket Gallery to be precise – which seemed apt.

To find out more about this production, I spoke to Colette Redgrave, producer and performer.

CM: Can you start by telling us what happens in the play, and how the format works? How does each bit link together?
CR: ‘Picasso’s Women’ features three monologues performed as Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova and Marie-Therese Walter. The audience are seated on three sides of the performance space in the main downstairs gallery at The Fruitmarket, and experience a very intimate and visceral performance.

The three monologues are seamlessly joined by music composed by Tot Taylor and feature soundscapes that evoke memories and notable places in their lives with Picasso.

CM: Who plays each of the women?
CR: Fernande Olivier is played by Judith Paris; Olga Khokhlova is played by me, Colette Redgrave; and Marie-Therese Walter, the youngest, is played by Kirsten Moore.

CM: Can you tell us a bit more about your character, and how you’ve approached the role?
CR: Olga was Picasso’s first wife. He met her whilst designing sets for the Ballet Russes and Diaghilev. Olga was a featured dancer at the time. Their relationship deteriorated in the early 1930s when eventually Picasso admitted to his affair with Marie-Therese. Olga refused to divorce Picasso.

In my mind and through my research she was an intelligent, multi-lingual and well educated woman with incredible tenacity and ambition. She left home to become a ballet dancer: to leave a noble family later on in her life to do this was both courageous and risky at the time. She was plagued with injury and other medical issues, which must have been draining emotionally and physically and yet she helped Picasso raise his game to circle amongst the Parisian Elite.

I approached Olga with a great deal of respect having been ballet trained myself, and the discipline that drilled into you plays a large part in my character preparation. I also think this is her chance to prove the critics wrong!

CM: What made you want to stage this particular play? What appealed to you about it?
CR: I first read the play in 2002 after it was performed at the National Theatre and the Edinburgh Fringe. I always liked the idea of it being performed in art galleries in a very intimate manner. The monologues give the ‘other side’ to the artist and his artwork. It gives voices to the women immortalised in Picasso’s viewpoint and his viewpoint only. Now we get to hear their point of view.

CM: Can you tell us about the playwright?
CR: Brian McAvera is a dramatist, director, curator and art historian. He has written twenty-five stage plays, radio plays for the BBC and RTE (many of them translated) and two television films, one of which he directed. His best-known plays (published by Oberon Books) include ‘Picasso’s Women’, a series of eight monologues first performed at the National Theatre in London, and at the Edinburgh Festival. They have since been translated into 15 languages. Other works include The Troubles trilogy, ‘Yo! Picasso!’, ‘Kings of the Road’ and ‘Francis & Frances’. He is an artistic adviser to Focus Theatre, Dublin, and sits on the theatre committee of the Writers’ Guild. In the world of visual arts, he has published twelve books and he writes regularly for the Irish Arts Review and Sculpture (in the USA).

Brian has been a huge support since I approached him in 2016.

CM: What made you decide to bring it to Edinburgh?
CR: It seemed fitting to bring this play back to one of its original platforms. Plus one of our patrons, Professor Elizabeth Cowling very kindly introduced us to The Fruitmarket Gallery and the rest they say is….

CM: Have you brought productions to Edinburgh before? Do you know what to expect?
CR: I choreographed ‘Quadrophenia’ a few years ago but have never performed there. I am looking forward to returning as a performer.

CM: What are you looking forward to doing or seeing while you are here?
CR: I have signed up to some of the shows and events, but I am waiting to see what the recommendations are when I arrive on the 10 Aug. But actually I am most looking forward to having two weeks to appreciate all the hard work that has gone into the last 2 years to get the show up to the Festival.

CM: Can we talk about you now? Did you always want to perform? How did your career begin, and what have been your highlights thus far?
CR: My uncle worked as Box Office Manager at ‘Starlight Express’… I first saw it when I was approx. four years old. I will never forget the impact it had on me. I trained because I wanted to go into that show and guess what… it closed at the Appllo Victoria the year I graduated! But that didn’t stop me, I was off acting in Vienna and on tour in the UK. I’ve recorded voice overs for National Geographic and the BBC.

My family, including my Mother and Grandmother both died in quick succession in my early 20’s and being an only child in a single parent family I had to face a lot of ‘life choices’ early on. I went back to retrain at RADA in 2015 and successfully found representation with Michelle Blair who is amazing! You never know… Starlight is coming back I hear?

Being a ‘Redgrave’ I think there is an assumption that you will just find both the technical skill naturally and the breaks, but I remember Corin Redgrave telling me to stick at the basics, work hard on training and commitment and the rest will fall into place, but most of all never to give up. And I haven’t.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
CR: It feels as though my opportunities are endless. I am excited by the way in which my life is unfolding both in my performing career and my personal life. This project was purposeful in that I wanted to create a platform in which to re-launch my career. I went back to retrain in 2015 and I am now battling the masses of actors who have been working continuously for the last 10 or 15 years. I want to prove to people that I can do this and that I can also organise a project like this from absolutely nothing.

CM: Are you planning to take ‘Picasso’s Women’ further after the Fringe?
CR: We already have a week long run booked in London at Gallery Different in Fitzrovia during the last week of September- we have a specially curated exhibition entitled ‘Muse, Model or Mistress’ featuring artwork by Women only artists which the Gallery have co-curated with artist Rebcca Fontaine-Wolf. This will include some specially commissioned art works inspired by ‘Picasso’s Women’.

Then I have been in talks with a corporate sponsor to take the show to Henley Festival, the LAPADA Art Fair, France, Spain and possibly America in 2019.

CM: What’s coming up next for you, after this?
CR: The London run and negotiating next year’s venues and a few trips to Portugal… we have just bought a traditional Portuguese Windmill, which in time my husband and I hope to run as a well-being retreat including yoga, post cancer retreats, art holidays and star gazing holidays! It’s all go! Last Monday I flew to Edinburgh for a meeting with the Gallery then I flew to Portugal for two days to purchase a Windmill, all whilst negotiating the merger of our fire and security business with another company?! Crazy… but incredibly fun.

Edinburgh will be a welcome rest in some ways!

‘Picasso’s Women’ was performed at Fruitmarket Gallery at Edinburgh Festival 2018.