News: The Four Fridas take flight at Greenwich + Docklands International Festival

Friday 15 May 2015 by Clare Evans

Voladoras - appearing as part of The Four Fridas at GDIF2015

Greenwich + Docklands International Festival (26 June – 5 July) will see streets, parks and public spaces across Royal Greenwich and East London transformed with a sensory overload of colour and performance.

One of the highlights of the festival, The Four Fridas is an outdoor theatre production celebrating the life and work of legendary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, taking place from 1 – 4 July at 10pm.

The Four Fridas brings together some of Britain’s most exciting creative talent in a team led by Greenwich+Docklands International Festival’s Artistic Director Bradley Hemmings, who also 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, the apprentice programme from Hofesh Shechter Company.

Frida Kahlo is recognised as one of the world’s most iconic artists, whose work draws on indigenous Mexican colour, imagery and symbols, chronicling her life and exploring themes of birth, death and survival. Flight and the aspiration to fly is a key theme in her life and work, and the production takes inspiration from this, recalling the quotation from her notebook in 1953 when facing the amputation of her leg, she wrote, “Feet, what need do I have of you, when I have wings to fly?”.

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.

Traditionally conducted by men, 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”.

More about The Four Fridas.

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