Desire Caught By The Tail, Bread & Roses Theatre - Review

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

More of a piece of performance art than a play, Desire Caught by The Tail is a surrealist work that was penned by Pablo Picasso in 1941. First performed as a rehearsed reading in France shortly before its occupation, with the likes of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus in occupied France, it has rarely been performed since its inception. A large reason for that is its lack of coherent narrative – instead using a series of vignettes with archetypal figures as opposed to 'characters'.

Four of the five-strong cast are female (Clare Almond, Eldi Dundee, Molly Ward and Natasha Colensa, plus Hugh Leadon) and within each vignette, there is a reshuffling of who plays what in each scene, allowing women to play male parts and vice versa – bringing a different energy to each scene.

The beginning of the performance has a Brechtian touch, with the director introducing the actors and what parts they play – emphasising the artificiality of the reality performed. Quite often the cast interact with the audience, but at one juncture where they sit at the front tow and stare back at 'the audience' it is unnerving. Who indeed is the 'audience'?

Roles such as 'the tart' (played by both male and female actors with a mirrow permanently in one hand) critique people who live solely to be liked and admired by others. Genuine affection from them is non-existent. Then there are several other stereotypes or abstract characters. One in particular – Bigfoot – is the person' who is generally the most unpleasant to others. While his/her name has connotations of an important person i.e. "You have big boots to fill", the way Bigfoot jokes with someone else about being unpleasant to a neighbour's cat for 'tresspassing' could be interpreted as a foretelling of events in Europe 75 years ago... and now...

Desire Caught By The Tail ran at the Bread & Roses Theatre from 17th-20th August. It runs again at the V22 Gallery on 21st August and Bow Arts on 25th & 26th August.


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