Picasso Stole the Mona Lisa

Sun 16th – Mon 31st August 2015


Jenny Burton

at 10:00 on 20th Aug 2015



Picasso Stole the Mona Lisa is a tornado of over-the-top farce, pun-tastic jokes and diverse accents that finds itself all wound up into a (sort of) history lesson. The show from invent-a-genre warehouse from Cambridge doesn’t set off to the best start, but as soon as you’re settled into your seat, it’s more than a laugh a minute.

Picasso Stole the Mona Lisa tells the story of the poet Apollinaire and painter Pablo Picasso discovering the Mona Lisa painting in their apartment. Learning that it has been stolen, and befuddled as to how it found itself in their hands, the pair set about discarding the painting. Unfortunately for them, but superbly for us, the gentlemen get caught by the police. What ensues is 40 minutes of messy kerfuffling, clever use of media and language and descriptions of Picasso’s art such as describing one of his faces as, “a particularly colourful piece of watermelon”. And it is brilliant.

Robert Eyers’ ‘policeyman’, Claude was a show-stealer. I can’t be certain that my French degree hasn’t led me to bias, but Eyers captured the farcical policeman perfectly. His thick French accent, in which he cleverly integrated errors (“when I was at universitoire” or “sittez-vous”) remained entertaining for the entirety of the show. From his varied imitations of his parents to his extraordinary hairstyle that required lots of attention, Eyers’ comic timing is impossible to flaw.

Watching Jamie Fenton’s writing is like watching an intense and exciting game of tennis, without a moment to relax. The script’s biggest success is its attention to punch lines and one liners that had my fellow reviewer and myself repeating its quips and quotes all night. Madame Olivier’s (Elinor Lipman) Liverpudlian accent was a natural source of comedy and modern interludes such as “that’s what she said” complemented perfectly to the 1910s time period. Apollinaire played by Will Dalrymple almost appeared to be improvising in his cavalier approach to each new development and I would believe it if he had modelled his character on one of the overconfident public schoolboys from Made in Chelsea.

Picasso Stole the Mona Lisa is a wonderful barrage of wit, sarcasm and farce all rolled up into one truly hilarious show. There are moments that appear a little messy with a few lines lost within the clumsy atmosphere, and we hear the occasional joke that doesn’t find its audience. However, if you have a free forty minutes and fancy more than a giggle, head to Picasso Stole the Mona Lisa, after all, you’ve got nothing Toulouse.


Caspar Jacobs

at 11:27 on 20th Aug 2015



In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre. Guillaume Apollinaire, a French poet, was accused because he once said the Louvre should be burnt down. He implicated his friend Pablo Picasso, but both of them turned out to be innocent. Picasso Stole the Mona Lisa takes this historical event as a starting point, but makes things a bit more interesting by supposing that Apollinaire suddenly finds the Mona Lisa to be in his apartment.

The show, put on by Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club, has a very amateurish feel indeed; a film footage that was meant to take place along the Seine in Paris was obviously filmed in Cambridge. The type of humour was typical for a student show as well. But this is not criticism! In fact, the play was delightfully amateurish with witty jokes that were funny exactly because I would have made them (if I were a funny person). Not everything worked as well, but over the course of an hour the play made me laugh out loud more than any stand-up comedian I've seen at the fringe so far.

The best bits of Picasso Stole the Mona Lisa were the dialogues that required a little bit of background knowledge about Picasso and the likes. Puns on the names of French painters like “Art is not about the Monet!” are perhaps not as funny when telling them to your friends, but believe me, the way they are delivered in the play will make you laugh. In another scene, there are quick 'cameos' of Joyce, Hemingway and Fitzgerald, played by the same guy in a way that will even be comical for someone who doesn't know anything about their books. It is all very geeky and student-y, but again, in this case this was a plus.

When watching Picasso Stole the Mona Lisa, you should follow the advice of the following quote by Apollinaire: “Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” If you want to do that – just be happy – you should definitely go see this play. It is witty and clever in its own way.


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