Frida Kahlo, Théâtre Excentrique @ Old 505 Theatre, Newtown

Posted on April 28, 2019 by Noni Daniels | 1 Comment

I had the wonderful pleasure of attending this earthy play directed by Anna Jahjah, a one person show, always a challenge to the actor, at The Old 505 in Newtown. Kate Bookallil played Frida and rather than romanticise her, there she was at home on her own in a night slip/petticoat looking rumpled and worn as someone would if sickly and alone. Frida was celebrating Day of the Dead and appeared risen from the dead, very Mexican.
Frida was crankily drunk and bemoaned that Diego was not around. The audience was made to feel as if you were unsure she had risen from the dead to tell her tale or that she was simply depicted alone in her room as aside most likely a maid, she would often have been alone. We usually see her surrounded by people yet forget that was when she was socialising. She did spend lengthy periods on her own and painted.
Her reference to her disability, her leg, was excellent as she was well aware of it yet it is usually only referred to as an event in her life outside of her accident, the disability could have referred to her persona also as she had a typical artist's temperament. Tomes have been written on the number of operations she had to her back.
The writer of the play is Mexican, Humberto Robles so that lent the play gravity avoiding being gussied up and with some humour. He has been quoted as being concerned about how she is depicted these days.
Kahlo is iconic, unavoidable, and Mexicans do love their shrines and remembering people so maybe the popularisation is also quite culturally Mexican, it suits her flamboyance and she loved the art of the people, popular art, not for her the careful elegance of high art of the bourgeoisie, Frida was a rebel and unusual and a champion of "low" Mexican culture.  Mexicans had strived hard for independence and a fairer society.
She kept a papier mache skeleton above her bed, I thought of how suitable the HK one would have been (made by the famed Linares) though the realistic skeleton had a real presence. Frida also collected some beautiful alebrijes as like Diego she enjoyed the art of the people and talked to them in her art. Many unusual artists are collectors of objects.
Loved the vibe of the theatre, it reminded me of small independent play houses in New York City or Mexico City and even better I saw Mexican people there, that is a compliment to the playwright and so familiar especially that student feel mixed with much more senior citizens you know, non-boring. Also more common in small experimental theatres. Hmm I wonder if one of the patrons crocheted her awesome vest in camouflage colours? It was very clever and fashionable, she might have bought it, even in Mexico. I am thinking of doing some knitting again! I already own some beautiful hand woven shawls.
I am navigationally challenged so someone needs to donate a cute lit sign, a theatre style sign, surely there are some wealthy artists out there who could donate. Anna says that it might be stolen yet when Holy Kitsch! was in Newtown we had no issues. I guess it lends a certain underground feel as to the secretiveness. Rumour does have it the lst HK sign ended up with an antique dealer who blacked out our web address, he uses it, which is wrong I think. When I entered the seating area I had to return a playing card I was given from a pack when they ticked off my name I got an Ace! Pretty darn nice considering I was still on recovery from a major flu. Thankyou to all from the theatre for the evening, the flu was outside that one!Signage in Australiaas to public transport and roads is appalling. I think the departments pay for the cheapest tender not realising visual language requires high end thinking and therefore a strong graphic designer and thinker. Eg. Stop signs simply say STOP rather than say using a gloved hand in the correct STOP position, you could add the word STOP. In Indonesia they use a skull and crossbones when you approach a scary bend which I guess gets a message across. Major train stations have almost nil signage and really you need to be a Local to find your way. Generally there is nobody to ask and finally you find a commuter who knows. Same with which stairs to use. Signs in and out of the city on the roads just say Woolongong or Newcastle which narrows things down somewhat. Forms in Oz follow this same irritating formula. They are as irritating as possible to weed out all intellectuals, artists and the disempowered as they are designed by bureaucrats/technocrats who have no clue to visual thinking  or visio-spatial abilities or how to make a form logical. They do not have that training. They are trained for something else entirely so the forms are horrible, they even have "use by dates". Unsure if this is a global issue we should all fight!


St Alex and Izzy

Jenny from London

1 Response

Anna Jahjah
Anna Jahjah

May 21, 2019

A wonderful review of our show Noni. Thank you SO much for coming… How lucky we are…

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