Cradeaux Alexander tells us all about LUXE's London premiere of Desire Caught by the Tail by Pablo Picasso (17-20 August at 7.30pm)
Years ago a theatre colleague of mine in New York casually mentioned that Picasso had written a play; I swiftly forgot about it and didn’t follow it up until fairly recently when researching material for our next production. My professional practice moves across theatre, live art and fine art, so at first glance this project seemed an ideal fit. Eventually I really delved into the nuts and bolts of the play, researching its context and got very excited by the prospect of staging it. Two or three years ago I probably wouldn’t have seen the urgency, but the world has changed so quickly, so brutally, so surreally – Picasso wrote his play during the Occupation in Paris and the undercurrent of anxiety is palpable. This condition feels very contemporary, and universal.
Why do you think it is a rarely produced play?
The language is difficult, the narrative is unusual, the through-line is nearly absent, it is abstract and episodic. I have a taste for those qualities, but as a maker I might be in the minority. There are also many staging challenges (and a few impossibilities) that some might not want to take on. Picasso has also become a kind of brand name for art, visual art that is, so that kind of momentum is self-perpetuating and probably steamrollers over other aspects of his creative output.
What has been your own journey into making theatre and how did LUXE theatre company get started?
I began as an actor, and trained at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York in the ‘90s. I met Mabou Mines and began to work as a resident artist with them, which was my first professional foray into making theatre and performance. I worked a lot with Ruth Maleczech and Fred Neumann and others around that company, and then with Richard Foreman and a lot of theatre artists at the Ontological-Hysteric Theatre. I watched The Wooster Group and worked in places like The Kitchen, Dixon Place and PS 122 making what we’d now probably call performance art or live art. Then I began to explore existing texts by writers that intrigued me, and staged works for theatre audiences with works by Beckett, Mueller, and Fassbinder in the USA and the UK. My first love, all the way back when I was in drama club in high school, was theatre of the absurd. I’m coming a bit full circle. Our next big project is an Ionesco festival…
Present company is a mix of older faces and newer ones, and all bring a unique quality to their work. Individuality is key, and a strength of presence. Working with new people always keeps things fresh, and creates unexpected palettes. Picasso originally had his play done as a staged reading largely for the amusement his friends, while the world was going crazy around them. This is the mode I’m intrigued to occupy: a unique amusement for our friends the audience, sharing our event with them in the same spirit in our shared crazy contemporary moment.
What were the biggest challenges in bringing this play back to the stage?
We’re showing this piece in various kinds of spaces, including theatres and art galleries, which have their own agendas both conceptually and practically. Thinking of new audiences; where its place is in the gallery as well as in the theatre; what can be retained, what must go; who is best to act out these parts…. The list goes on.
What can we most look forward to in your production?
Some unique language play for sure, and a bit of dismemberment. The Tart’s also literally got a pot to piss in.
Desire Caught by the Tail runs 17th to 22nd August.