Greenwich+Docklands International Festival 2015
The Four Fridas
A large scale theatre spectacular inspired by the life and work of Frida Kahlo
1 – 4 July 2015
Royal Borough of Greenwich, venue to be announced
“The Four Fridas” is a spectacular, outdoor theatre production celebrating the life and work of the legendary Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, taking place from 1 – 4 July at 10pm, as the centerpiece to this year’s Greenwich+Docklands International Festival*.
Audiences of up to 3,000 people per night will be immersed in a visually thrilling experience, integrating elements of ritual, music, narration, contemporary dance, and aerial choreography performed alongside video projections on a giant flying canvas.
The Four Fridas brings together an outstanding creative team led by Greenwich+Docklands International Festival’s Artistic Director, Bradley Hemmings who co-directed the Opening Ceremony to the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Designed by Georgia Lowe, with an original script by award winning writer Jay Griffiths, music by BAFTA and Novello Award winner Dan Jones and lighting design by Olivier Award winning Natasha Chivers, the production will include a specially commissioned appearance by Shechter Junior, an exciting apprentice programme from Hofesh Shechter Company, representing the very best of a talented new generation of young dancers.
Frida Kahlo is recognised as one of the world’s formost women artists. Her work, which reflects her turbulent and colourful life, has been described as ‘a ribbon round a bomb’. and is celebrated as emblematic of Mexico’s national and indigenous tradition, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form. She spent much of her life in her home in the Casa Azul (Blue House) in Mexico City, and was married to muralist Diego Rivera. She suffered severe injuries after a traffic accident and spent long periods in bed. In her 1953 notebook, when facing possible amputation of her leg, she wrote“Feet, what need do I have of you, when I have wings to fly?”. Flight and the aspiration to fly is a key theme in her work of and the production takes inspiration from this.
In recognition of Frida Kahlo’s lifelong empathy with indigenous Mexico, The Four Fridas will feature a unique and powerful pre-Hispanic Mexican cultural tradition. For the first time ever, a group of young indigenous women from the tiny remote village of Xochiapulcho in the Sierra Puebla, will travel to London to enact the extraordinary flight of the Voladores. In this breathtaking ceremony, a 30m wooden pole is central to an ancient, but also very much living, fertility ritual, now recognised and protected by UNESCO in its schedule of “intangible heritage”. At the top of the pole a “caporal” communicates through flute and drum music with the gods above, whilst the four women Voladoras, release themselves and descend in an exquisite and spectacular flight.
Women Voladoras are a rare and very 21st century development of this ancient tradition, and therefore particularly appropriate in celebrating the life and work of one of the world’s most iconoclastic women artists.
The production will also include a specially commissioned collaboration between leading UK aerial dance company Wired Aerial Theatre and BAFTA Award winning film maker Tal Rosner: Frida Kahlo’s paintings will literally take flight, with aerial performances by an ensemble of disabled and non-disabled dancers, integrated with giant video projections on a giant overhead “canvas”.
Award winning artist Rachel Gadsden will explore the continuing legacy of Frida Kahlo as a disabled artist, with a specially created animated film, whilst the production’s Assistant Director, Amit Sharma is Associate Director at Graeae, a theatre company which places disabled artists centre stage.
Artistic Director, Bradley Hemmings said “Three years on from co-directing the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games it’s a great privilege for me to be working at large scale once again, particularly in celebration of one of the world’s most visionary disabled artists”.
The appearance by the women Voladoras as part of The Four Fridas has been planned and produced in partnership with the Centre for Indigenous Arts and the Cumbre Tajin festival, the two organisations responsible for promoting the recognition of the status of intangible heritage for the ritual ceremony of the Voladores by UNESCO.
*Greenwich+Docklands International Festival is London’s largest and longest established festival of free outdoor arts, last year attracting audiences of more than 110,000.
The performances of The Four Fridas will take place in the Royal Borough of Greenwich with venue to be confirmed in May.
There will be both paid seated ticketing available in advance and substantial free promenade access available on the day. Tickets for reserved seating will go on sale on 14 May. Please check www.festival.org for regular updates.