In recent years there have been a number of plays about male artists. However, whenever there have been plays about female ‘artists’, they have almost always been of a literary nature, not painters. Until now.
Adapted by directed by Ovlyakuli Khodjakuli, Red & White Frida takes an unorthodox approach to addressing the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. In folklore across the globe, the visitation of a doppelgänger – a spirit that is the identical replica of oneself – is an omen of bad luck or a portent of one’s own death. Frida’s own words within the play suggest ‘death’ has been her constant companion throughout her life and something she as a matter of course incorporates into her paintings.
For those of you who don’t know about her work, it’s often been compared to surrealism, but by her own admission, she’s only painted about what she has – or is – feeling. An injury sustained as a young woman left her hospitalised and needing habitual operations for her spine.
Sibylla Meienberg plays ‘Red Frida’ – the living, breathing artist whose ‘blood’ and vitality is represented in all her work. Kateryna Stanoeva plays ‘White Frida’ – her deathly alter ago who could also be said to be a version of herself unacquainted with pain, physical and emotional.
As ‘Red Frida’ talks about her life, its various stages are represented by her paintings and ‘White Frida’ often plays the other figures alluded to, such as husband Diego Rivera. ‘Red Frida’ herself doesn’t stay far from her bed of convalescence – either staying on it or sitting next to it.
As ‘Red Frida’ travels down memory lane, it is anything but a sedate affair, as buried emotions erupt and her surroundings mirror the chaotic nature of her mind. Red & White Frida is a play where feelings are expressed unreservedly and in its own way, is an emotional doppelgänger of Kahlo.
© Michael Davis 2018
Red & White Frida ran at the Hen & Chickens Theatre from 3rd to 6th May.