Edinburgh Fringe 2015
“[Caroline] Bowditch returns with her intimate and witty show that explores the life, loves and legacy of painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), exposing little-known facts about the infamous woman, remembered for her art. The reclaiming of a disabled artist, a love like obsession, an enquiry into how we shape what we are remembered for. Affinities and parallels are drawn, and the tale of the great concealer is skilfully revealed by and through powerful yet fragile bodies.”
Witty, clever, sexy, sensual – this is an evocative performance that layers text, music and movement. As the central performer, Bowditch is charming and funny. The delivery of her performance feels genuine and intimate. She remains friendly and carefree throughout whilst managing to tackle a number of complex themes with intelligence and care. Although my knowledge of dance is somewhat limited – Welly O’Brien and Nicole Guarino work hard to compliment the performance through a mixture of dance and performative movement. They are a powerful team, and the movement across the three bodies is graceful and absorbing. It is wonderful to see these women working together on stage and there is a powerful contrast between the disabled and able bodied performer. What’s more, the elegance of all three performers is extremely moving and draws critical attention to the lack of representation that disabled (or just unconventional) body types receive within the theatre/performance world.
That said, whilst the piece is a reclaiming of Frida Kahlo by a disabled artist, with disability as a central theme, Bowditch has not ‘overdone’ this aspect of the work. The politic is subtle. She engages with a range of issues from love, lust and what we leave behind and, importantly, refrains from telling us how to think about such ideas.
Recounting past love affairs and other experiences, Bowditch draws parallels between her life and that of the esteemed artist. Bowditch’s own experiences are positioned against stories about Frida Kahlo who is discussed through poetic fantasies and love letters recited from memory. The frankness with which Bowditch discusses sexuality, love affairs and life experience is thought provoking and carries weight to it with implications that move beyond the individuals represented on stage. However, in some ways I feel that the performance could have been more challenging and think that it has a huge amount of potential that has yet to be uncovered. Frida Kahlo’s work is abstract and unusual, often unsettling. Whilst much of the imagery is clearly referencing such work, the overall feel is very comfortable and child like. I would like to have seen more of the complexities, the darkness of this figure and the world that she inhabited – as well as the politics surrounding her legacy and the issues it relates to today.
There are some really enjoyable moments of audience interaction and engagement. Tequila shots and a confident pause where the performers take time to enjoy some watermelon which is sensuously devoured on stage. Overall the piece is heartfelt and touching. It engages with a number of important themes and I’m happy to recommend it – tickets are selling fast so get one while you can!