Picasso at the Lapin Agile
By Steve Martin
Directed by Ed White
6th - 9th April 2011
Abbey Theatre Studio, St Albans
13th - 16th April 2011
OVO @ Pudding Lane, St Albans
Click here to view pictures.
Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein meet one magical, mythical night at the Lapin Agile bar.
As modern art meets modern thought, the air crackles with sexuality, artistry and metaphysical madcap comedy.
Witness the dawning of the 20th century as only the comic genius Steve Martin could imagine it.
“Plenty of laughs, a little romance, a little nostalgia - and it makes the audience feel smart. Nice trick!”
Lapping it up at theatre
14th April 2011
TO describe Picasso at the Lapin Agile as simply a surreal play is probably doing it a
For while it is not unheard of for playwrights to put unlikely bedfellows in the same play,
Steve Martin’s work, currently being performed in St Albans by drama group OVO, could be just bizarre or making a far more serious point.
I lean towards the latter as anyone would of a play which has Einstein, Picasso and an
unnamed visitor from the future whose identity is very clear, meeting in a Parisian bar and striking up a conversation with others which takes in what will happen in the 20th century, the nature of genius and the relationship between cerebral minds and the more run of the mill.
But it is surreal and comic at the same time as witnessed by the man at the bar with
prostate problems who requires frequent trips to the toilet, a wise-cracking yet laconic barman and a mythical inventor whose self-belief is off the wall.
But then the play has been written by Steve Martin, best known as a comedian and film
actor, and it may be that he penned it just to entertain, which it certainly does.
It is a play well suited to OVO which is increasingly moving away from the mainstream
in favour of little-known and challenging plays. And they don’t come much more challenging than Picasso at the Lapin Agile.
Picasso does not appear until at least halfway through the 90-minute play and the Visitor, who seems to have a key role despite being unnamed, comes on stage close to the end.
Director Ed White has the benefit of a fine cast with whom he joins in the role of Gaston, a regular at the Lapin Agile and the aforementioned man with prostate problems – the cause of plenty of amusement.
And it was good to see Howard Branch, an occasional OVO performer, back with the
company in the role of Freddy, the bar owner whose dry comments are the backbone of the play. Alison Wright as his girlfriend Germaine is a good match.
The really testing roles are those of Einstein and Picasso and both Will Franklin and
Howard Salinger rise to the challenge. While Will plays Einstein as a meek man (the play is
set before his theory of relativity when he is working in a patent office) with a huge interest in everything around him, Howard’s Picasso believes firmly in his own genius and lets everyone know it.
Strong supporting roles are taken by Angharad Pugh-Jones as Picasso’s sometime
lover and Craig Duncan in a vignette as the strongly self-publicist inventor Charles
But at the end of the day this is a team effort and no-one lets the side down.
Don’t go to see Picasso at the Lapin Agile and expect to understand its deep hidden
meanings – you won’t. But go and see it because it is entertaining, funny and above all,
7th April 2011
Having previously enjoyed Art, OVO’s last run at Pudding Lane, I was looking forward to seeing Steve Martin’s play Picasso at the Lapin Agile.
My destination was altered due to “licensing issues”, which meant the play had to be transferred to the Abbey Theatre, the show must (and usually does) go on!
The Abbey Theatre played a fantastic role in the piece, semi in the round. I felt
completely a part of this 1904 meeting of Picasso and Einstein. In fact the fourth wall was truly smashed when a cast member took a programme from an unsuspecting audience member to reveal another actor came on too early.
Steve Martin is known particularly for his comic timing, delivery and physical humour, OVO pulls off with ease a skilled comic timing which had the audience in stitches.
A slow start, but it soon got into its stride. With interesting characters and characterisations of wonderful historic figures, the Lapin Agile was a place for artists of all backgrounds to meet and share their thoughts of the world and future, while drinking or going for a pee.
I was struggling to accept some of choices that were made on the aesthetics side to the production, set in 1904, yet Picasso’s agent takes a photograph to document the artists within the bar using a digital camera. And while all of the actors seem to connect physically to their characters, Picasso, played by Howard Salinger, was someone who looked and sounded like a jack the lad of the 21st century. At times the accents were a little under rehearsed.
Will Franklin was incredibly solid, consistent and utterly convincing as Albert Einstein. Sagot, played by Oscar Blend, as ever, gave a wonderfully camp and charming performance. He has so much presence and timing and stood out for me as the star of the evening.
I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and would recommend it to anyone looking for a classic, speedy, comic, one liner production.
Far from making me feel blue! *** (3 stars)
Freddy, owner and bartender of the Lapin Agile - Howard Branch
Gaston, regular in the Lapin Agile - Ed White
Germaine, waitress and Freddy's girlfriend - Alison Wright
Albert Einstein - Will Franklin
Suzanne - Angharad Pugh-Jones
Sagot, Picasso's art dealer - Oscar Blend
Pablo Picasso - Howard Salinger
Charles Dabernow Schmendiman - Craig Duncan
The Countess - Rebecca Smith
A female admirer - Rebecca Kellner / Lowri Evans
A visitor - Ian Jordan
Producer - Kate Kellner
Stage Manager - Linda Bagaini
Lighting Designer - Doz Brook
Lighting and Sound Operator - Matthew Critchfield
Costumier - Anna Franklin
Publicity and Programme Designer - Adam Nichols
Photographer - Michael Maggs