A review of “A Weekend with Picasso” at Caltech Live
Written by and starring Herbert Siguenza
Directed by Tim Powell and Todd Salovey
On-demand viewing beginning March 6—April 4.
This is a play that’s not a play. It’s a play very cleverly adapted into a film-like version of itself, but it’s still really very deeply and most importantly a play. There’s a real difference in how a film and a play is made, obviously and for a film to have even the smallest essence of the undeniable magic of a play it must be alive, uncut, vibrant and hold on to that undefinable electricity that only a live performance can create. This magic is a very tricky kind of lightening to capture within the glass of a camera.
“A Weekend with Picasso” has, to my mind, fully achieved it. It’s a very clever hybrid, a covid induced and beautifully made anomaly. And much like Picasso’s own work, and certainly compared to what I have spent most of the last year watching in online theatre, totally unique. There is a lightness of hand to it. It presents so beautifully unaffected, uncomplicated and so subtly edited that we are walking with, rather than framing Picasso, as we watch him in his most natural of habitats, at home and at work.
“A Weekend with Picasso” gives us a weekend with arguably the greatest artist who ever lived. An invitation into the home, the habits, the work and the mind of a man who is not only a painter, but a philosopher, a designer, a magician, a master of that most precious and most rare a thing, an artist’s mind.
A mind born from the cosmic dust that built the universe, a mind continuously creating, continuously growing. A force of nature, unapologetic, unrestrained, as fascinating as a child. We discover his art with him, as he discovers it, as he creates it, talking all the time about his life, his choices, his lack of regret. While Picasso is busy creating a series of paintings and pottery to fulfill an order for his art dealer, we are the eyes of the young art intern sent by his agent to make sure he completed his assignment – something that Picasso does not at all appreciate, but does sweetly tolerate. It seems as if he enjoys an audience.
The recreation of Picasso’s studio is absolutely wonderful. Filming on location in a lovely house, with a garden full of herbs and bougainvillea, beautiful stone walls and a gorgeous and very French garden gate, so reminiscent of the villas in the South of France where I spent many summers as child myself.
It’s this attention to detail that makes all the difference, in theatre, in film, in masterful character pieces such as this.
An artist himself, the writer and performer of this gorgeous work, Herbert Siguenza, has a theatre pedigree as long as Picasso’s brush and is best known for co-founding the theater performance group Culture Clash. So enraptured by the artist and so inspired by his work, Siguenza developed this seminal piece and has performed it many, many times, all over the country. When we were thrown into this covid mess, he thought it the perfect time to adapt the piece for film and gift it to a grateful world.
As Picasso said, and indeed as Siguenza quotes him in his play, “Inspiration does not exist, and if it does it must find you working.” I couldn’t agree more.
This is a play for the ages, it should not be missed. Siguenza captures Picasso perfectly, as passionate, sublime, obstinate, charming and totally unforgettable.
Siguenza recreates some of Picasso’s most memorable paintings himself, magical moments filled with brush strokes, works of art taken to their rawest state. Magical.
The wonderful Caltech Live are hosting “A Weekend with Picasso” for a few more weeks. Do yourself a huge favour, pour a glass of good red French wine, grab a baguette, some cheese, some apples, tomatoes, some pate, and spend a little time in Southern France with the master of all masters, Pablo Picasso…
Produced by San Diego REP. The filmed production is directed by Tim Powell and Todd Salovey, with Sam Woodhouse as producer.
The production team includes Chelsea Smith (first assistant director); Catharina Cojulun (first assistant camera); Ashley McFall (gaffer); Evan Rayder (grip and electrician); Matt Lescault-Wood (sound mixer and recordist); Anastasia Pautova (art director and costumes/props); Sammy Moore (set design and art department lead); Kate Reynolds (location scout); and Kim Heil (associate producer).