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Nadia Jackson and Spiky Saul - Maar, Dora Interview

Dora Maar (1907-1997) was a prolific photographer and artist, developing her career in fashion photography, before hailing as one of the first women in the surrealist movement. She used her creations as a social commentary on beauty, gender and war.

However in today’s conversations, her name only appears after a man’s: the infamous Pablo Picasso. He needs no introduction (and I am not inclined to give one). History holds Dora’s romantic involvement with him as the only memorable thing about her, but in this play, Dora is here to tell you differently. Delving into the deepest depths of her career, and his cruelty, battling to escape the association with Picasso that looms over her, whilst bringing you the honest truth about this ‘love story’.

The play is written by Nadia Jackson with direction by Spiky Saul. It stars Faye Ziegler and Dom Thomson. 

After two sell out two performances the show returns to the Old Red Lion Theatre from 12th - 16th March. Ahead of this we caught up with Nadia and Spiky to discuss the production.

What inspired you to write the piece?Nadia: I have always loved art, and if I hadn’t have pursued a career in theatre, I like to imagine an alternate world were I am a full time artist. Because of this, I’ve always wanted to create something that combines art and theatre. 

I find true stories to be the most compelling, as I also take a huge interest in history, and recognising what parts of history do or don’t get remembered. I found Dora’s story, and wanted to give focus to a female figure that history has forgotten. 

How have you approached bringing the production to life?
Spiky: As this is a piece of new writing, it was really exciting to be able to develop it alongside the writer, really involving the cast in developing scenes and discussing what sort of language could be added or evolved to help with the emotional journey of Dora, the main character. 
What research did you do whilst writing and developing the play?Nadia: This play originally began as part of my dissertation, so was a very research-heavy project. I found interviews from Maar and Picasso, read biographies written by people close to them, and have integrated verbatim speech from the pair into my writing. I then faced the issue of have gaps in their story, which they hadn’t publicly spoken about. So, I explored the idea of using quotes from newspapers, journalists and editors, to portray how other people have controlled Maar’s narrative, and have chosen how the public see her.
Why do you think this story is an important one to tell?Spiky: Dora is one of many many female artists whose accomplishments have been ignored by history. Her story is so important as she was at the forefront of surrealist photography but she is not a commonly known name, her story deserves to be told and discussed.
What’s the biggest challenge when writing or staging your first play?
Nadia: Our characters are real historical figures, and the story is entirely based in truth. When writing, the challenge was knowing I had to get them as accurate to life as possible. I really wanted to do Dora justice. 
Spiky: The biggest challenge for me really was taking on the recreation of iconic paintings like Picasso’s weeping woman! This whole process has been such a lovely collaboration, having such a strong lead has been a real gift and working so closely with Nadia Jackson (writer) has given real life to these characters.
What keeps you inspired? 
Nadia: The great thing about having a piece based on real life is that there is an abundance of materials to use, if you dig deep enough! I’ve been writing this piece over about 3 years, but even now in rehearsals, we keep finding out more about Dora Maar. New things that show her in a different light and spark ideas for more scenes or moments that I’ve written in as we go along. And I’m sure there’s still plenty that’s yet to be discovered!
What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing MAAR, DORA?
Spiky: I mean the whole show is based around the fact that this incredibly talented and impressive woman is so overlooked due to the eight years she spent with Picasso. I think we really want audiences to understand her a little better.

Maar, Dora runs at Old Red Lion Theatre on Tuesday 12th until Saturday 16th March 2024. Tickets and more information can be found at

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