in association with The Nuffield, Southampton
Picasso and Me
Feeling that the theme of father and son relationships might be a tad heavy for an early Saturday afternoon, I was surprised to find myself drawn in to Mikes accomplished piece of solo theatre. With a tortured personal life always seeming to be the price of genius, Mike identified Picassos life, loves and works as a relevant backdrop and cipher to understanding estrangement and reconciliation. Expertly narrated through two voices and over 50 years, this production is both funny and heartbreaking, leading to a poignant, uplifting conclusion. If you have a slight interest in Picasso this play informs. If you have children or parents it connects. I was very impressed.
Mike Maran is a real one-off a charming, old-fashioned storyteller with an almost hypnotic intensity which lets him draw audiences effortlessly into his imaginary world. The world in question is the court of king Pablo Picasso in the south of France during the summer of 1967, and the veteran yarn spinner is on compelling form. The framing narrative concerns a young Scottish lad the storyteller in his youth. Travelling aimlessly around Europe, he accepts a lift from a photographer on his way to Picassos house to take pictures of his work. The boy gets a job as the snappers assistant and the older man dictates his Picasso anecdotes to the boy for a book he is planning to write one day. Its a clever set up.
Mike Maran is a superb storyteller; he brings meticulous research to life and presents this in an engaging and interesting manner. As with great paintings that touch you emotionally and personally, Marans Picasso speaks to us all, encouraging us to recall memories and assess relationships. Focussing on Picassos men rather than Picassos women, which has dominated writing about Picasso, its a story about fathers and sons, about responsibilities and growing up and remembering detail rather than having a quick look at something and moving on. This is a one man show that is based on detailed research that is clever, moving and funny it is a lesson in art history and a lesson in life.
Mike Maran is a master storyteller. He stands casually on stage drawing the audience into his story web. You wonder if he is making it up as he goes along. But like easy writing Marans stage simplicity masks a disciplined craft. Every throwaway line carries measured weight, every casual detail adds to the finished product. Then you go back into your everyday world illuminated, entertained and even challenged. Marans one-man productions, such as Captain Corellis Mandolin, Did You Used to be R.D.Laing?, and Mahler: Song & Dance Man have already featured in the awards list. In Picasso & Me the man is in fine form again. Doing some research on the great artist Maran found himself drawn to Picassos paintings of his father and his sons. More attention has been paid to Pablos troubled relationships with his mistresses, but Maran crafts a fine reflection on troubled fatherhood. He achieves it primarily through the narrative voice of a photographer who goes to Picassos studio to take pictures of the great mans works. By the time he was 14, Pablo had surpassed his artist father. He prolonged his genius until the end of his life a 14 year old who died when he was 91, leaving behind broken hearts and great masterpieces. Maran evokes Picassos world with consummate skill, and leaves fathers in the audience with hard questions.
A young Scottish man, estranged from his father, finds himself heading for the South of France in company with a photographer. The photographer will take pictures of Picassos paintings, the young man will assist him, the young man will have his portrait painted by the great man himself and years later the portrait will come back into his life and change his relationship with his own son. Around this fictional scenario Mike Maran weaves the story of Picasso the man destroyer of all around him, bad son, worse father, great painter. This is storytelling theatre; the space is small, but the anecdotes, particularly the Picasso ones that prove to be mythical, are gripping and utterly fascinating, aided immensely by Mike Marans easy going, slightly shambling anecdotal style. The deliciously Mediterranean tinged music by Karen Wimhurst is a real bonus. It makes you see Picasso with a fresh eye.