MORNING STAR REVIEW – PETER FROST
Artful response to the jackboot
Picasso's Artful Occupation
Ian Buckley's new play Picasso's Artful Occupation is set in the autumn of 1940 when Hitler's troops occupied Paris. During that time the painter Pablo Picasso was in voluntary exile in France.
Like his fellow painter Henri Matisse, writers like Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Cocteau, he had chosen Paris as his home. Many of them held strongly left-wing, communist views.
Hitler and the nazis declared much of this left-inspired art to be "Bolshevik" and "degenerate" and part of their 1940 looting process demanded the cataloguing of thousands of valuable works of art.
Picasso, though his art was officially banned, continued to paint in his Left Bank studio and Buckley's play finds the artist, brought alive by Gary Heron in the vaults of the Paris branch of the Bank of Industry and Commerce, with two young German officers who are cataloguing the painter's works.
One of them is Frisch (Roberto Landi), himself an artist, who is trying to understand how art and politics are changing under the new nazi order.
The other, Hebbel (David O'Connor), has discovered the dirty postcards for sale on the city's street corners. For him they are more interesting than Picasso's curious creations.
The interplay between the three characters, tightly directed by Kenneth Michaels, asks and sometimes answers questions about how an artist with strong socialist principles and beliefs can live and create great art under the fascist jackboot.
As with all his plays Buckley manages to combine serious historical political issues with drama, humour and a few visual fireworks - not too different from a Picasso painting, in fact.
Runs until March 30. Box office: (020) 8932-4747.