Falling in Love with Frida is an hour redolent in intimacies. Invoking the spirit of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, performance artist Caroline Bowditch illuminates both women’s transformative approach to life and art. You can take the girl out of Australia, and all that, but you need a bit of chutzpah to pull off the converging dynamics which touch on the personal, the political and the aesthetic. Bowditch has this by the bucketful.
She begins by looking at herself in a mirror, outstretched on a yellow table – one of the many primary references in Katherina Radeva’s vibrant design. Backed by neon cacti and lush pastel washes, she watches herself as we watch her. Bowditch is the art. Provocation meets playfulness as wit and theatrical savvy interweave revelations embracing both artists. At times, the choreography resembles the dis-abled body in design and bare-knuckle honesty. This is when the production is at its most potent. Everything is a matter of perception.
Born with a genetic bone disorder, the word broken features a good deal in Bowditch’s extended, and at times poetic, monologue. Along with ‘vulnerable.’ The narrative, woven through with music and performative text becomes a thematic idea about how other people perceive or remember us. What mark do we leave on the world? And what is legacy? ‘I am a bitch. I am a painter,’ said Kahlo. Bowditch: I am what I am.
‘I know you so well/I know the things you like to eat/The clothes that hang inside your wardrobe/I know where you sleep/The music you lay down to.’ The repetitions, like a series of snapshots, suggest intimacies; almost bordering on the obsessive. Yet the private becomes public as the women laugh, roll their tongues, drink tequila and lasciviously eat water melon in joyous celebration of life. These are stand out moments.
The artful act of looking, throughout, is both cheeky and profound. The integrated BSL signer, Yvonne Strain, is central to this concept. Yet try signing clitoris. Hands sculpt words in the air as resonant as the dancers’ movement in embracing distinctly Latin sensuality and incongruity. The dancers Welly O’Brien and Nicole Guarino add their own exotic subtleties, picked out in warm-colour swatches or stripped-down white. With its direct, frank appeal ‘Falling in Love with Frida’ both charms and disarms; not least through the life-affirming Bowditch herself.