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Frida Kahlo – Viva La Vida review at Oval London

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It is the Day of the Dead in Mexico and the artist Frida Kahlo dresses her home with traditional, decorated Mexican skulls as she remembers the people and events that shaped her life. Humberto Robles one-woman show paints a deeply personal portrait of the great Mexican artist. Robles’ skilful writing avoids the cliches of simply listing major events by attempting to evoke the spirit of this deeply patriotic lady, who during much of her lifetime was known simply as the wife of renowned muralist, socialist and womaniser, Diego Rivera. Kahlo became an international figure in the art world and Robles play offers some insight into why those who met her were enraptured by her.

Much of the success of this work belongs the sterling efforts of Gael Le Cornec, who inhabits the role of Frida Kahlo like a second skin. Wearing traditional Mexican dress, with flowers in her hair, Le Cornec interacts with the audience, feeding them, mocking them and flirting with them until they are totally under her spell. A deeply physical role, Le Cornec twists and turns her body into the role, painting her skin ghost white in the semblance of skeleton, mirroring Khalo’s sense of infertility after several crippling miscarriages.

Le Cornec’s performance comes somewhere close to the intensity and intimacy that made Kahlo’s paintings so popular.

Sophie Moseberger’s setting is simple and inventive, with a couple of examples of Khalo’s work on display and costumes on coat-hangers. Luis Benkard’s direction is thoughtful, if a little arty, but thankfully rarely breaks the momentum of Le Cornec’s vital delivery.

Production Information

Oval, London, October 20-November 7

Humberto Robles
Luis Benkard
Gael Le Cornec
Gael Le Cornec
Running Time
1hr 15mins

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