The West

Exploring the mystery of creativity
Picasso's Goldfinch writer Tom Jeffcote outside the Art Gallery of WA. Picture: Laura Mangen.

Perth playwright Tom Jeffcote jokes that he owes a debt to Don Jose Ruiz and Maria Picasso for their great timing in the birth of their famous artistic son Pablo on October 25, 1881.

Jeffcote's play Picasso's Goldfinch was set to open at the tiny Blue Room theatre next week but has instead been invited to make its premiere as a showcase at the Art Gallery of WA to mark Picasso's birthday on Thursday as part of the major touring exhibition of modern masterpieces from New York's Modern Museum of Art.

"I thank Pablo's parents for their brilliant timing in conceiving Pablo to arrive a week before we open at the Blue Room," Jeffcote says. "Everything had fallen into place."

The one-off performance at the Picasso to Warhol: 14 Modern Masters exhibition is the first time a play has been presented at the gallery, although it has hosted concerts, comedy, dance and even circus events before.

Referencing a famous Picasso remark, the two-hander play explores the role instinct and intimacy play in both love and creativity, Jeffcote says. "In the end, there is only love. However that may be. And they should put out the eyes of painters as they do goldfinches in order that they can sing better," the modernist master said.

Respected WA actors Andrew Hale and Tiffany Barton appear as a reclusive, creatively blocked painter and his emotional dance with a prying female journalist who gradually unlocks his stories of the past muses who underpinned his now-lost creativity.

"I have always been interested in creativity and its genesis and why some artists just suddenly stop," Jeffcote says. "Some stop at their peak and I wanted to explore that."

The play is designed and directed by Lawrie Cullen-Tait, whose production of Red, John Logan's play about New York abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, won many admirers when it was produced by Sally Burton's Onward Productions last year.

"Without Lawrie it wouldn't be happening," Jeffcote says. "It's as simple as that." For her part, Cullen-Tait calls Picasso's Goldfinch "a rare gift to any artist and is so beautiful that I don't doubt that it will be staged many times around the world".

Picasso's Goldfinch is at the Art Gallery of WA on Thursday at 6.30pm (tickets through Ticketek) and at the Blue Room from October 31 to November 17. Details:

The West Australian

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