Friday, October 23, 2009

Review: Frida Kahlo Viva La Vida

Wednesday night I went to see Frida Kahlo; Viva La Vida a one woman show at the Oval House, opposite the famous cricket ground. Despite the fact I had to 'play' Rockerfeller getting shot as part of some light audience participation I have to say it was blindingly good.

Gaƫl Le Cornec was mesmerising as the Mexican painter whose tempestuous passions burn a hole through her life. Whether it's her politics, her lovers, her art or the tragic accident that shapes much of her story Le Cornec overwhelms by force of personality.

Told from the end of Kahlo's life during the day of the dead celebrations you might have thought the show would be maudlin or full of nostalgia for good and bad times past. Far from it. Kahlo is portrayed as full of life, still railing against the injustices of the world and her failing body, experiencing the past with as much vivid emotion as any of her paintings.

But it is not simply the performance that made this such a exceptional show. The direction and set are used exquisitely to summon up the past. I found the inventive use of colours and music to be particularly striking in a way I've never quite seen before, although I could have done without the smoke machine.

One interesting aspect of the play is that although it revolves around Kahlo's reminiscences it does not feel like a historical tour of her life. For me that was a strength, although I wonder what it would have felt like to those who know nothing of the painter's life. I suspect the play would still be immensly enjoyable, although possibly a little more surreal and confusing - which is not necessarily a bad thing if it leads more people to discovering Kahlo's life and works.

Plays like this, in small theatres with small casts (in this case of one), can so often be a disappointment, this was not one of those occasions. In fact if small productions were always just half as good as this it would be a wonderful thing. Frida Kahlo Viva La Vida runs until 7th November.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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