Caro Meets Festivals Interview Theatre Interview

Peter Tate: ‘Picasso’ and Pick Of The Fringe 

By | Published on Friday 13 October 2023

You may have gathered by now that we here at TW Towers are big fans of solo theatre shows, and of course everyone knows how we feel about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

So obviously I was interested when I heard about the season of one person edfringe successes beginning this week at The Playground Theatre.

To find out more about what to expect, I spoke to the venue’s Artistic Director Peter Tate, whose own show – ‘Picasso – The Monstre Sacre’ – opens the season.

CM: Can you start by telling us about ‘Picasso – The Monstre Sacre’, which you co-adapted and perform in? Clearly it’s about Picasso, but what elements of him and his life does it focus on?
PT: It’s very much about the women in his life starting with his mother. The women were, of course, the inspiration of his art.

CM: What themes would you say it explores?
PT: His relationships with women and how those relationships translated into his art.

CM: Can you tell us about the source material? What made you want to create this show? What inspired you?  
PT: I was originally approached to play Picasso by Terry D’Alfonso, who started the piece before I got very much involved. Terry did a lot of research, and the recent three-part series on Picasso on BBC2 contained a lot of material that is in our play.

CM: So the plan was always to perform it yourself?
PT: Yes, I have been with the project ever since we did two performances at MOMA in NYC and then I opened my theatre, The Playground Theatre, with a full-scale production of the original piece, which was endorsed by one of Picasso’s muses, Sylvette.

CM: The show is part of the Playground Theatre’s Pick Of The Fringe season. Can you tell us a bit about the other shows that are on as part of the strand and who is involved with them?
PT: After ‘Picasso’ there is ‘The Quality Of Mercy’, which is about the serial killer Harold Shipman, and is written and performed by the grandson of one of the victims.

Next up is ‘The Devil’s Passion’, written and performed by Justin Butcher, and directed by Guy Masterson – who has also directed my ‘Picasso’ incidentally.

There’s a double bill of plays by Gail Louw – ‘The Mitfords’ and ‘The Good Dad’ – and finally, ‘Nearly Lear’, which is the story of ‘King Lear’ told through the eyes of the Fool, created and beautifully performed by a wonderful clown, Susanna Hamnett.

CM: How were the shows selected to be part of the season? 
PT: I saw all of them – and others! – whilst I was performing in Edinburgh in the summer. They are all solo shows and I was keen to do a solo show festival, as I have performed in many, all over the world, in places such as St Petersburg, Jerusalem and NYC.

CM: How did your fringe run of ‘Picasso’ go?
PT: It went exceptionally well, garnering five star reviews – five of them in fact – and I have been nominated for an OffFest Award, to be announced in January.

CM: As founder and co-artistic director of The Playground Theatre, what  would you say have been the highlights since the venue opened in 2017?
PT: There have been many, including a fantastic production of ‘Soldier On’ by Johnny Guy Lewis, Stephen Berkoff doing his take on Weinstein, Brian Cox – now one of our patrons – directing ‘Sinners’, ‘Shirleymander’ about Shirley Porter, and many more.

CM: What aims do you have for it in the future?
PT: My co-Artistic Director, Anthony Biggs, has just left, but I have now gathered an incredible array of artistic associates. We want to turn The Playground into an artistic hub, with artists developing projects and then putting them on for public consumption.

CM: What’s coming up next for you, after performing in the show?
PT: I have dates for ‘Picasso’ in New York and The Hamptons in the US, as well as in Milan, so my association with that will continue for some time. I am also involved in a project called ‘Moving Bodies’ by Myriam Cyr, on which Brian Cox is the executive producer.

The Playground Theatre’s Pick Of The Fringe runs from 16 Oct to 25 Nov. See the venue website here for all the listings.