London Reviews July-December 2008


Frida Kahlo: Viva La Vida



Genre:



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Venue: Theatre 503 (above the Latchmere Pub) Transferring to premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Hill Street Theatre Universal Arts - 1st -24th August.


Low Down


Arguably Latin Ameica’s most famous female artist Frida Kahlo is fascinating subject matter. Frida Kahlo: Viva la Vida, Huberto Robles’ award winning play brings her to life in full technicolour glory. Gael Le Cornec fully embodies and embraces Frida in this one woman whirlwind of a production, which is not only a unique take on Frida’s life, but an intimate exploration of her relationship with long time lover and fellow artist Diego Rivera. Frida Kahlo: Viva La Vida is one of those unique one-woman shows that despite the tragedy of Frida’s life, the audience leaves smiling. Le Cornec brings a tiny snapshot of this brilliant artist’s story to life and leaves us craving more.  For art and theatre lovers alike this is a must see at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe!  

 

 

Review


Arguably Latin Ameica’s most famous female artist Frida Kahlo is fascinating subject matter. Frida Kahlo: Viva la Vida, Huberto Robles’ award winning play brings her to life in full technicolour glory. Gael Le Cornec fully embodies and embraces Frida in this one woman whirlwind of a production, which is not only a unique take on Frida’s life, but an intimate exploration of her relationship with long time lover and fellow artist Diego Rivera. The set that begins shrouded in white sheets, like a blank canvas, only to reveal itself to the audience bit by bit as Le Cornec maps out Frida’s life, similar to the way Frida’s paintings take shape for her viewers, new discoveries every time you look.

For those who don’t know anything of Frida Kahlo, Viva La Vida gives a whirlwind snapshot of her life, told with humour and plenty of tequila shots by Le Cornec. Kahlo’s life was fraught with trauma, near fatal accidents, a number of abortions/miscarriages and her troubled yet beautiful relationship with fellow artist Rivera. Her art is largely self-portraits, which see her reflecting herself in her various states of trauma, “painting her own reality” using fairly surrealist imagery. Robles’ Frida says it like it is. Her art she says “comes from [her] guts. [She] doesn’t paint dreams” We see the men in Frida’s life represented by male audience members pin pointed by Le Cornec, and also by the skulls she collects of varying shapes, sizes and colours. If you are knowledgeable about Kahlo, Le Cornec provides a humorous, often dark and always colourful take on her personality. She gives the audience an insight into the world of a passionate, vibrant woman, who fought against all odds, her disabilities and bad fortune to be seen as strong, independent and unique.

Le Cornec breaks down the fourth wall to thoroughly engage and involve her audience on Frida’s journey. One man, to his great delight is pulled up on stage for a slow dance, and in another random moment audience members are clambered over by Le Cornec so she can sit on one gentleman’s lap whom she immediately christens Diego. Director Luis Benkard has done a superb job with the staging of this piece, using every available inch of space to create Frida’s world.

Designer Sophie Mosberger’s set is bright, expressive and higgledy piggeldy in the nicest sense of the word. A pair of overalls hangs stage right and a dress similarly stage left. The clothes representing Frida and her lover twist and turn as the story unfolds, almost appearing alive like the people they represent. The table is littered with fruit, colourful memorabilia, and the necessary tequila bottle, which is swigged from regularly and even offered to the audience. The battered wheelchair stands to the side, a horrific reminder of Frida’s disabilities following her tragic accident as a young woman, an accident that lead her to painting. Two of her paintings are revealed in the show, remarkably similar to the originals and highlighting and mirroring references in the play.

Frida Kahlo: Viva La Vida is one of those unique one-woman shows that despite the tragedy of Frida’s life, the audience leaves smiling. It is easy for a one-person show to get bogged down in content about the life of the subject matter and be essentially ‘dumbed’ down, or cropped for an audience. Yet Le Cornec manages to tell Frida’s autobiography story without making it seem in any way like Frida Kahlo for dummies. Instead she brings a tiny snapshot of this fascinating artist’s story to life and leaves us craving more. Le Cornec received a well-deserved rousing and extended applause for her epic performance as Kahlo. For art and theatre lovers alike this is a must see at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe!  
 

Reviewed by Skye Crawford 13th July 2008

Website :

www.universal-arts.co.uk

 

 
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