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The Frida Kahlo of Penge West

Olivia Scott-Taylor and Cecily Nash in The Frida Kahlo of Penge West. Photo: Nick Rutter Olivia Scott-Taylor and Cecily Nash in The Frida Kahlo of Penge West. Photo: Nick Rutter
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The best thing about Chris Larner’s latest play is that despite its plethora of stagey in-jokes, there is still plenty of accessible comedy to keep the regular punters happy. The Frida Kahlo of Penge West tells the story of Zoe, a mousey marketing assistant who reconnects with an old university colleague Ruth. Zoe is shy, unassuming and hopelessly in love with her boss, while resting actor Ruth is loud and pathologically egotistical.

Larner has created a situation comedy of sorts, that happily inhabits its fringe stage format. The heightened dialogue ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, bolstered by Cecily Nash’s slightly unhinged performance as Ruth. Nash is part bulldozer, part fire-cracker as she relentlessly bullies Olivia Scott-Taylor’s Zoe into joining her for a play about the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Needless to say it all goes horribly wrong, but not before delivering plenty of belly-laughs. The final play-within-a-play, My Womb Is a Paintbrush, is imaginatively staged but out-stays its welcome. Having met Ruth, we already realise that she is a dreadful actor and this just labours the point. While this production may satirise the Fringe mercilessly, it does so with attitude, affection and not a little insider knowledge.

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Nicely designed, occasionally laboured comedy featuring two madcap comedy performances
Paul Vale
Paul has been writing for The Stage since 1998 as a critic and feature writer. He is also part of The Stage's Edinburgh Fringe review team.