The Patriot by Giles Roberts (for Chelsea Manning)

Embedded in sweat and fatigues and orders and sand
did you notice the cursor flicker.
A binary-coded beacon
tracing pathways through the maze of this thing they called Freedom.

Not everything in the desert is a mirage.

Behind your own enemy lines buzzed the hive of truth —
a swarm of data scraping at the inside of your skull
punching hellholes through bone, tissue, blood
to reach the surface where it made your skin crawl
your conscience howl.
Too much for you to handle, Private Manning.

Who can say what war does to a person
except make him/her cry for release.
You had to share.
Help the inside get out.

They didn’t like that.

You are embedded still
familiar to the concrete walls, paper clothes, prison days.
Your feet no longer pad through sun-drenched desert dunes
but squeak across strip-lighted vinyl floor.
The price you pay.

And here you are kept
collaterally damaged
politically submerged
ever hoping for the outside to get in.


The Lives of Lee Miller

In this post we cover the life of Lee Miller, Roland Penrose’s wife and muse.

Lee Miller was born in New York and came into the world of photography initially as a model. She went to Paris in 1929 where she met and worked with Man Ray, who was a Surrealist photographer and artist. There she established her own studio, and became a photographer herself. She was known as a portraitist and fashion photographer, but also did Surrealist work. Her studio closed when she married Aziz Eloui Bey, an Egyptian businessman, and she moved to Cairo.

On a visit to Paris she met Roland Penrose in 1937, who she would later marry. Shortly before World War II broke out she left Egypt for London and moved in with Roland.

I’m a bona fide correspondent. They’re ready to assign me to war material.’

– Lee, ‘The Invisible Artist’, Roland : A Collage

She refused US Embassy orders to return to America and took a job as a freelance photographer for Vogue magazine. The latter event is depicted in the scene ‘The Invisible Artist’, juxtaposed with Roland’s commission as a Captain for the Royal Engineers.

I have to see this thing up close. I want to be there when the fighting stops, the killing stops. I want to travel through it and know that when it ends – because it will end; it has to end – something of mine told the story.

– Lee, ‘The Invisible Artist’, Roland : A Collage

Lee Miller was one of the only female combat photo-journalists to cover the front line war in Europe, and was witness to the siege of St Malo, the Liberation of Paris, battles in Luxembourg and Alsace, the Russian/American meeting at Torgau and the liberation of Buchenwald and Dachau. She visited both Adolf Hitler’s and Eva Braun’s houses in Munich, a moment captured in the scene ‘Lee in the Bath’, where the famous photograph of her in Hitler’s bathtub was taken.

‘This house will always be this house. Only his house. His house and the graves, the cadavers, the emaciated bodies – the wild, wild mind. My hands are moist. My camera’s gonna slip out my hands. I look for the bathroom. I’ll wash my hands, I think. I’m there at the sink next to the bath and I feel tired, of course, we’ve been walking all day, the wind is blowing in Munich and I’m tired.’

Lee, ‘Lee in the Bath’, Roland : A Collage

Continuing her coverage of the first World War she then delved into Eastern Europe, covering harrowing scenes of children dying in Vienna, life for the poor in post-war Hungary and the execution of Prime Minister Lazlo Bardossy during her time as a war correspondent.

In the following years Lee will travel through dread and disgust and plain, stark horror. The eyes that take those pictures will dry out like leeches in the sun. She will touch the bottom and rarely resurface.’

– Roland, ‘The Invisible Artist’, Roland : A Collage

After the war she continued to work for Vogue for 2 more years, covering fashion and celebrities. She contributed to Roland’s biographies of Picasso, Miro, Man Ray and Tapies. After finding out she was pregnant with her and Roland’s only child, Antony, she divorced Aziz Eloui Bey and married Roland in 1947. They lived at Farley Farm House where her works are preserved and exhibited to this day, along with Roland’s. She is best remembered for her Surrealist images, and striking portraits of famous artists like Picasso. She suffered from episodes of clinical depression after the war, and mainly gave up photography, pursuing cooking instead.

‘No photos, please; I have put my camera down.’

-Lee, ‘Good Shooting’, Roland : A Collage

The Life of Mr. Penrose

Hello all!

In this post you can find out about the fascinating and varied life of the titular character of ‘Roland : A Collage’ – Mr. Roland Penrose.


Early Background:

Roland Penrose is the protagonist of this piece. He was an English artist and a major collector of modern art. He is particularly associated with the Surrealists, though he is perhaps more famous for his pioneering of camouflage techniques in World War II.

He was born in 1900 to James Doyle Penrose, a portrait painter, and Elizabeth Josephine Peckover who was the daughter of a wealthy Quaker banker. When he was 18 he joined the Friends’ Ambulance Unit and served with the British Red Cross in Italy, though he was a conscientious objector.

After the First World War he attended Cambridge, studying architecture. However he soon switched to painting and subsequently moved to France in 1922 where he lived. In France, he married the poet Valentine Boue and met Pablo Picasso, Wolfgang Paalen, Max Ernst and other Surrealists. He was soon absorbed into Surrealist circles.

Roland Penrose would be remembered as one of the people who established the English surrealist movement, and his work on camouflage.

‘ Some would say that there was no greater passion in Roland than Picasso.’

– Lee, ‘Antibes’, Roland : A Collage


‘ We’re planning something significant with the Burlington Gallery, which will hopefully happen next year.’ 

 – Roland, ‘Mougins’, ‘Roland : A Collage’

Penrose was one of the organisers of the London International Surrealism Exhibition in 1936, at the New Burlington Galleries. The other organisers were Hugh Sykes Davies (poet and novelist), David Gascoyne (poet), Humphrey Jennings (documentary filmmaker), Rupert Lee (painter, sculptor and printmaker), Henry Moore (sculptor and artist), Paul Nash (painter), Herbert Read (poet and literary critic) and E.L.T. Mesens (artist and writer).

The French Organising Committee was comprised of Andre Breton, Paul Eluard (Who appears in the play during the ‘Mougins’ scene), Georges Hugnet and Man Ray (who also appears in ‘Mougins’).

Penrose then opened the London Gallery on Cork Street and promoted the Surrealists as well as his friends’ work.

In 1938 he organised a tour of ‘Guernica’, by Picasso, aiming to raise funds for the Republican government in Spain. This is recalled in the scene ‘Guernica’s Victory’, where you can see Roland’s attempt to convince reluctant galleries to co-operate in the nervous period before WWII.

If the British government are intent on non-intervention and will not speak out to condemn the Generalissimo then, yes, we have to find other weapons, other – other means, yes.’

– Roland, ‘Guernica’s Victory’, Roland: A Collage


The essence of invisibility is the removal of shadows.’

– Roland, ‘The Invisible Artist II’, Roland : A Collage

As a Quaker, Penrose was a pacifist. After the outbreak of WWII however, he volunteered as an air raid warden and then taught military camouflage at the Home Guard in Osterley Park. The scene ‘The Invisible Artist II’ depicts Roland working on developing camouflage for military wear.

I thought I was just playing with colour and suddenly I’m Captain Penrose.’

– Roland, ‘The Invisible Artist’, Roland : A Collage

He was commissioned as a captain in the Royal Engineers, which he discusses with Lee in ‘The Invisible Artist’. During lectures he used to startle his audiences with a colour photograph of a scantily-clad Lee Miller wearing green netting, which is also referenced in the scene ‘The Invisible Artist’. He proclaimed that ‘if camouflage can hide Lee’s charms, it can hide anything.’

In 1941 he wrote the Home Guard Manual of Camouflage, which provided accurate guidance on the use of texture as well as colour.

Marriages and Relationships:

Roland’s marriage to Boue had broken down by 1934 and they were divorced in 1937. By 1939 Roland had begun a relationship with Lee Miller, another central character in ‘Roland : A Collage’, who was a model and photographer. They were married in 1947 and they live at 21 Downshire Hill, Hampstead, which now bears a blue plaque. This is also where ‘The Invisible Artist’ is set. Despite his divorce from Valentine, Roland remained close with her and she lived with Roland and Lee for eighteen months.

The picture I have brought is not a painting. It is made up of picture postcards and scraps of coloured paper.’

– ‘Why I am a Painter’, Roland Penrose

Roland is remembered for his postcard collages, which is discussed in ‘Why I am a Painter’, the opening scene of the play, and which includes excerpts from his essay ‘Why I am a Painter’. He also worked on surrealist paintings, drawings and objects. He was knighted for service to the visual arts in 1966.


Roland and the Surrealists in Exeter

‘Roland : A Collage’ is one of the theatre pieces being showcased during the Molino Group’s residency at the Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter as part of a season called art : weapon. We have been here in Exeter for two weeks now, also putting on performances of ‘Desert’ and developing Giles Roberts’ new play ‘Much Further Out Than You Thought.’ If you’re in Exeter, make sure you come along to the Bike Shed Theatre on Fore Street so you don’t miss out!

Over the next week we’ll be posting on the blog all sorts of interesting tidbits, research and videos to compliment Roland : A Collage, so check back often. Today we’ll be starting with surrealism, a massive influence on the life of painter and collage-maker, Roland Penrose.

Surrealism and Surrealists: The artistic figures in ‘Roland : A Collage’

“You’re a walking gallery, Roland! Which one of us doesn’t have some piece of work in your attic?” – Man Ray, Mougins (1937), ‘Roland : A Collage’

The 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition

Surrealism has its birthplace in Paris, where it emerged out of the anarchistic Dada movement and automatism. Andre Breton wrote its manifesto in 1924, defining the purpose of the movement and providing examples of Surrealist work. It had a journal, ‘La Revolution surrealiste’. It expanded across Parisian cafes, from literature to visual art. A group grew in Brussels in the 1920s including such names as E. L. T. Mesens and Magritte. Its first exhibition was in Paris, named ‘La Peinture Surrealiste’, displayed works by artists such as Man Ray, Masson, Klee and Miro. The following year, La Galerie Surrealiste was opened, and Surrealism’s footprint on art was preserved forever.

It was in the 1930’s that Surrealism began to be noticed by the wider public eye, however, and when Roland’s own role comes into play. The period came to be referred to as the Golden Age for Surrealism.

In 1936 the London International Surrealist Exhibition was held, organised by a Surrealist group in Britain and Breton considers it one of the high points of the period, and the model for future exhibitions.

Roland himself was one of the organisers, along with Hugh Sykes Davies, David Gascoynw, Humphrey Jennings, Rupert Lee, Diana Brinton Lee, Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Herbert Read and E.L. T. Mesens. The French organising committee was comprised of Andre Breton, Paul Eluard, Georges Hugnet and Man Ray.

The exhibition was opened with approximately 2000 people attending, and it is said 1000 people a day visited the exhibition. The New Burlington Galleries in London, where it was held, certainly saw many people enter and engage with surrealism – no matter their response. It certainly helped propel surrealism into the wider waters of the art world, no longer a niche movement.

The Surrealists in the Play

‘Some leading lights are sat around. Nusch and Paul Eluard, Man Ray, Dora, Picasso’s lover. The conversation moves freely, lightly, for the most part.’ – Lee, Mougins (1937), Roland : A Collage

In the play, several surrealists are mentioned. Two are even encountered speaking aloud in the scene fragment ‘Mougins’. Who were they, and how did they know Roland?

Man Ray

‘Guernica will do more than any government, Roland.’ – Man Ray, Mougins (1937), Roland : A Collage

Man Ray was an American visual artist who spent much of his career in France, particularly Paris. He produced visual art of varying media, but considered himself a painter. His most famous work is his photography, including ‘rayographs’ which were photos made by the placement of objects on photo-sensitive paper.

Though he did not take students, the American to-be photographer Lee Miller persuaded him to apprentice her. She soon became his muse and they began a relationship. With her he reinvented the photographic technique of solarisation – where images become reversed in tone. Dark areas become light and vice versa. He also worked on short films.

During the Second World War, he moved back to the United States from Paris, to Los Angeles. There he met his wife Juliet Browner and was married to her in a double wedding with his friend Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning. He called Montparnasse his home, and returned there.

In Roland : A Collage, he is seen enjoying the scenery and lifestyle of Mougins along with Lee, Roland and other surrealists. Though two years after the scene he would leave France, he would eventually return to the country he considered home.


Paul Eluard

‘A poet isn’t inspired, he inspires!’ Paul Eluard, Mougins (1937), Roland : A Collage

Paul Eluard was a French poet born on the outskirts of Paris. He served in the army but was discharged due to gangrene infection. Whilst he recovered he read a lot of poetry, such as Rimbaud, and Walt Whitman who Eluard felt an affinity with. Suffering pervaded his own poetry but overall his outlook is hopeful. His poetry began to be published with ‘Le Devoir et L’inquietude’ in 1917, and in 1918 ‘Poemes pour la Paix’ was also published.

In Paris Eluard came into contact with the other surrealists. Eluard signed the original manifesto and surrealism’s influence on his poetry is clear. He became well known and liked in the surrealist group, and he endeavoured to work on surrealist causes. He edited ‘Revolution Surrealiste’ and ‘Surrealisme au Service de la Revolution’.

In the early thirties Eluard married Nusch, before he was called to military service in 1939. Eluard became part of the underground resistance movement by publishing clandestine literature during the German occupation of France, and was forced to run from the pursuit of the Gestapo. Nevertheless he continued to write Resistance poetry. After the war, Eluard became active in Communist interests and travelled extensively before his death in 1952.

In ‘Mougins’ Paul is seen enjoying the refuge with the rest of them, unaware of the years in flight he will spend during World War II. Lee later remarks in ‘Good Shooting’ that she “found Paul in the back of a bookshop like a scared cat” after the war.


Nusch Eluard

“Nusch was a crumpled flower, dying as she spoke.” – Lee, Good Shooting (1950), Roland : A Collage

Nusch was a French model and surrealist artist. She was born Maria Benz and gained the nickname “Nusch” from the Swiss architect and artist Max Bill. She arrived in France as a performer but also worked as a model. It was during her time working as a model that she met Paul Eluard, who she later married. She still did pose as a model, famously for cubist portraits by Picasso, as well as nude photographs for Man Ray, but she began work on surrealist photomontages and other work. During the Second World War, she also worked for the Resistance in France like her husband. She died young, in 1946 of a stroke.

Lee remarks also on Nusch in ‘Good Shooting’, stating that both her and her husband were affected terribly by the Second World War. Though Nusch is not a speaking role in the play, she is mentioned several times over the course of Roland : A Collage.


Dora Maar

Do you remember Dora Maar?” – Lee, Good Shooting (1950), Roland: A Collage

Dora Maar was a French photographer, painter and poet. She was born in Croatia and grew up in Argentina. She was already a photographer and painter when she met Picasso in Paris at 28 years old, and he was 54. It was Paul Eluard who introduced them. Picasso and Maar began a relationship that was to last nine years, and he was to paint her image many times.

She photographed the stages of completion of Guernica, and became known for her portraits of Picasso. She also studied printing with Man Ray, and made surrealist collages and montages with her photographs.

After her relationship with Picasso ended Maar struggled. This blow was compounded by the death of Nusch Eluard, a close friend of Dora’s, shortly after the war. However she returned to her social circles and found reprieve in her religion, Roman Catholicism. She continued to write poetry for the rest of her life, and made a return to photography before her death.

“Picasso sucked her dry. She never recovered. Her work never recovered… Maybe she just didn’t age well.” Lee makes a series of comments about the decline of Dora after both WW2 and the end of her relationship with Picasso. There are parallels with accounts of Dora’s unhappiness in real life, and indeed Dora was the subject of ‘The Weeping Woman’, one of Picasso’s most widely recognised works. Picasso himself remarked “Dora, for me, was always a weeping woman.”

That’s all for this evening, but do drop us a line if you have any comments or come and see us at the Bike Shed, Exeter. We’re here until Saturday!

Desert Spring Tour – the MolinoGroup hit the road!

DESERT, our piece about US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, is currently on tour in the UK.

Since developing the show at Exeter’s fantastic Bike Shed Theatre last June. (If you’re in Exeter you have no choice: go.)We have lived with this story for a long time, and it’s fantastic to be able to take it out to new audiences across the UK between March and April, and to have been welcomed so warmly by the Proteus Creation Space in Basingstoke, and the Lighthouse in Poole already, grateful as we are to them both for supporting emerging companies.

After Chelsea’s sentencing in August of last year, as well as her decision to formally proceed with gender transition, DESERT has inevitably undergone a number of changes, as we try and keep in step with Chelsea’s unique, ever-shifting story.

Audiences (or potential audiences) can be excused a certain suspicion when theatres, the media or programmers talk about a play/production causing ‘debate’, or ‘prompting discussion’. Let’s face it, it’s difficult not to see it as simply as another marketing angle. We have to be conscious of this as we say that one of the key facets of the tour, is the work around the show, the post-show discussions and debates we organise in every venue we visit.

Why are these important? Simply because, (like any story perhaps?) for it to be alive, it needs to be discussed. No matter how large or small the scale on which we are talking, the conversation around Chelsea Manning or whistleblowers more generally – their actions and the merits of these, why they might have been compelled to act, etc. – is a (very simple) part of active citizenship.

DESERT tries to imagine something of Chelsea’s world-view and the feelings, intelligence and — contrary to some opinion — patriotism, which led her to do what she did, and how she came to defend her actions in the courtroom.

So, all worthiness (or marketing angles) aside — it would be great to talk to you about it.

Although we are avowed supporters of Chelsea’s cause, we’ve also endeavoured to find as balanced a form for her story as we can, and tried to elucidate both its better- and lesser-known elements, positive and negative, and give a sense of the journey that she has been on since she made the leaks in 2010.

We were very lucky to welcome Justin (@jmrphy) and Einar Thorsen (@einarthorsen) for our discussion in Poole, looking at the broader landscape in which Chelsea’s actions sit, as well as their lasting impact. This Monday 24 March at 8pm we bring DESERT to Upstairs at The Western in Leicester, a relatively new venue, but which has already welcomed some great companies and artists like Worklight Theatre and Hannah Silva. Next month it’s Leeds, Liverpool and Bristol.

A warm hello, then, to those we’re about to meet.


DESERT – Post-Show Discussion speakers @ The Lighthouse, Poole (Thu 6th Mar 2014)

During the Spring 2014 tour of Desert, one performance at each venue will feature a post-show debate & discussion with guest speakers.

The first such event takes place at The Lighthouse, Poole on Thu 6th March following that evening’s performance, and will feature guest speakers Justin Murphy (University of Southampton) and Einar Thorsen (Bournemouth University):

Justin Murphy

Justin Murphy is Lecturer in Politics at University of Southampton, where he researches and teaches political economy and politics of the media. He writes widely about social theory and politics on his website,, and tweets frequently from @jmrphy. He is originally from Philadelphia.

Einar Thorsen
Einar Thorsen is Senior Lecturer in Journalism and Communication at the Media School, Bournemouth University, where he is also Convenor of the Journalism Research Group. His research focuses on online journalism, particularly during crisis and conflicts, and in response to political and environmental change. He has published research on BBC News Online, Wikinews, WikiLeaks and Manning.
All ticket holders for the performance are able to attend the post-show discussion – do feel free to join us.

DESERT – Review, ReviewsGate (28/05/13)

Distanced but informative theatrical examination of secrets and truths.

“Two days after The Molino Group’s Bike Shed Theatre run ends, the court-martial begins. After keeping am allegedly dangerous, democracy-threatening, half-American, half-Welsh terrorist in prison for 3 years, the American forces’ justice system is going to consider whether he’s guilty or not.”

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