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Picasso's Women at Harbour Theatre

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Easel yourself in for a brush with Picasso’s Women
Picasso's Women, Harbour Theatre, play, performing arts, stage, actor, Fernande Olivier, Françoise Gilot, Jacqueline Roque, Pablo Picasso
Anna Head, left, Sherryl Spencer and Melissa Merchant are appearing in Picasso's Women. Picture: Michael McAllan


A fascinating insight into Pablo Picasso's wives and lovers is emerging from the canvas at Harbour Theatre, as three women share stories about their lives with the great artist. Written by Brian McAvera and directed by Jarrod Buttery, Picasso's Women is a collection of three honest, erotic and humorous monologues that pull no punches.

The 2000 play allows Fernande Olivier, Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Roque to give their point of view and uncover their buried histories while relating their lives to Picasso's art. "Most people know Picasso was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, yet few know details about his personal life," Jarrod said.

Picasso's Women, Harbour Theatre, play, performing arts, stage, actor, Fernande Olivier, Françoise Gilot, Jacqueline Roque, Pablo Picasso
Picasso's Women features Anna Head, left, as Françoise Gilot, Sherryl Spencer as Jacqueline Roque and Melissa Merchant as Fernande Olivier. Picture: Michael McAllan


"Picasso was married twice but had many muses and mistresses and this production explores the lives of three of the most prominent women. The challenge of Picasso's Women is in respectfully depicting real women who lived through some of the most tumultuous years of the 1900s. We are fortunate to have three exceptionally talented actresses, with many past productions to their credit, who are excited to bring these three women to life on stage."

Involved in theatre for more than 30 years, Jarrod was one of the founding members of Blak Yak Theatre and has performed in a plethora of productions with Melville, Roleystone, Garrick, Limelight, Playlovers, KADS, Old Mill, Kwinana and Harbour Theatres. He directed the first Terry Pratchett play to be staged in Australia, was named best director at the 2004 South West Drama Festival for his production of Heide's Last Hit and directed the sold-out season of The Ladies Foursome at Harbour Theatre earlier this year.

Picasso's Women, Harbour Theatre, play, performing arts, stage, actor, Fernande Olivier, Françoise Gilot, Jacqueline Roque, Pablo Picasso
Melissa Merchant, left, Sherryl Spencer and Anna Head play the wives and lovers of the famed Spanish painter in Picasso's Women. Picture: Michael McAllan


"The fascinating aspect of Picasso's Women is that it depicts female characters who are not only strong and three-dimensional but real-life historical figures," Jarrod said. "These are real women who shared their lives with one of the most famous men of the past century. Françoise Gilot, who had two children with Picasso and is still alive, will celebrate her 100th birthday on November 26, which is our opening night."

Dr Melissa Merchant plays Fernande Olivier. "Fernande was one of Picasso's early lovers who spent eight years with him, through the end of his Blue Period into his Rose Period," she said. "She was an artist's model and appears in work by some of the most famous painters of the early 1900s.

Picasso's Women, Harbour Theatre, play, performing arts, stage, actor, Fernande Olivier, Françoise Gilot, Jacqueline Roque, Pablo Picasso
Anna Head, left, Sherryl Spencer and Melissa Merchant get in the frame for their roles in Picasso's Women. Picture: Michael McAllan

"This is the third time I have played Fernande and, each time, I find something new in the role. On this occasion, I can see the way she re-invents herself depending on who she's with and who she's talking to."

The main challenge, according to Melissa, is learning the lines. "Fortunately, Fernande has one of the shorter monologues but it's still 20 to 25 minutes with just one actor on stage," she said. "It can also be challenging with monologues to avoid sounding like you are lecturing to the audience, particularly given I'm a lecturer myself!"

Picasso's Women, Harbour Theatre, play, performing arts, stage, actor, Fernande Olivier, Françoise Gilot, Jacqueline Roque, Pablo Picasso
Françoise Gilot (Anna Head, left), Jacqueline Roque (Sherryl Spencer) and Fernande Olivier (Melissa Merchant) relate their lives to Picasso's art. Picture: Michael McAllan


Active in theatre since 1995, Melissa has worked with Heritage, Kwinana, Harbour, Melville, Blak Yak, Roleystone, Old Mill, KADS, Garrick and Marloo Theatres, Murdoch University and the Graduate Dramatic Society. She received a best actress award for her role in Insignificance in 2006 at the annual Garrick Theatre awards, as well as scoring a best actress nomination for No Names… No Pack Drill at the 2015 Milly Awards. In 2006, Melissa directed a stage adaptation of the TV show Coupling, winner of best ensemble cast at the South West Drama Festival – and she was named best writer for her play Never Ever at the same festival in 2015.

Picasso's Women, Harbour Theatre, play, performing arts, stage, actor, Fernande Olivier, Françoise Gilot, Jacqueline Roque, Pablo Picasso
Anna Head, left, Sherryl Spencer and Melissa Merchant are delivering three honest, erotic and humorous monologues about Pablo Picasso. Picture: Michael McAllan

"I found Picasso's Women when I was looking for a one-woman show as part of my university honours research," she said. "I performed two of the monologues for my research and have loved the play ever since. The script allows for a level of versatility you don't often see and there is a lyrical nature to the writing that is a pleasure to perform.Your text goes here"

Picasso's Women plays at 7.30pm November 26, 27, December 1, 3 and 4 with 2pm matinees November 28 and December 5. Tickets are $25.50, $23.50 concession and $20.50 students – book at www.TAZTix.com.au or call TAZTix on 9255 3336. Harbour Theatre is located at 16 Lochee Street, Mosman Park.


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Why? An informative and thought-provoking look at several facets of Picasso’s life, drawing a portrait of the man behind his public image, and the women who were used and abused by him.
When: 7.30pm November 26, 27, December 1, 3 & 4; 2pm November 28 & December 5
Phone: 92553336
Where: Harbour Theatre, 16 Lochee Street, Mosman Park
Cost: $25.50, $23.50 concession, $20.50 students
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