Ishka Theatre, A Red Day

Review in Issue 14-1 | Spring 2002

This young company used full body masks to bring to life characters and scenarios based on Picasso’s paintings. Thus Dora Maar, Picasso’s lover, was annoyed by the presence of two of his other creations, a horse and the white lady. She attempted to escape from her frame, only to encounter both Picasso himself and the bull from Guernica.

Visually the masks were both striking and beautiful, creating a powerful impression that the paintings have come to life, although technically and rhythmically the actors sometimes failed to animate them. The sound was imaginative and arresting, especially in the Guernica sequence where visual and aural elements simultaneously conveyed a sense of beauty, menace and horror.

These elements were so strong they tended to overwhelm the drama. It is revealing that director Elaine Bastible notes in the programme, ‘it is not very usual that a creative process starts with design, but that is how this show began’. Furthermore, despite the masks’ three-dimensionality their drama was never more than two-dimensional. Picasso himself, for example, was presented as that familiar figure, the male artist who simply wants to paint. Yet behind that carefully cultivated persona was a complex being who concerned himself with the reality behind the masked.

The end result was that the audience was presented with a series of moving sculptures. Undeniably aesthetically pleasing, the show failed to fully engage. However, I look forward to the future work of this company as I feel that they are creating an interesting development of mask work.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jan 2002

This article in the magazine

Issue 14-1
p. 25