THE FRIDA KAHLO OF PENGE WEST C Nova, Edinburgh

A VICIOUS AND GLEEFUL PLEASURE…
There is a particular kind of modern feminist who fixates on the Mexican painter and free-loving socialist and her endless self-portraits: two other plays in this very Fringe have superscriptions from Kahlo sayings, like “I was born a painter and born a bitch”. But Zoe, a quiet, cerebral, apologetic publishing assistant scared of life, explains Kahlo as “Interesting, if you like that kind of thing and don’t mind being a bit annoyed…like being hit with a sledgehammer of schoolgirl solipsism” . Her cuckoo flatmate, Ruth, is an unsuccessful actress, gripped by the idea of stuffing the patriarchy by doing a one-woman show. Once she disentangles Frida Kahlo in her mind from Frida from Abba, she sees her story – lame, boho genius, fiery lover – as a dream subject. “She shagged that Lenny Trotsky! When she wasn’t painting she was shagging, and when she wasn’t shagging she was limping! Take away the ‘ting’ and you have “pain!”. AND she was a cripple, and hornier than a dwarf on a stag night!”

In this achingly funny, now well-honed and successful comedy by Chris Larner, Kahlophilia is only one of the targets skewered, in sharp lines and wonderful body-language, by the two players, Olivia Scott-Taylor as the eternal mouse in awkward blouse and pleated skirt, and Cecily Nash as the appalling Ruth: toxically self-confident with chaps (“red lipstick, show him your tits, mean are eaaaaasy!”) and raging endlessly at the weaknesses of theatre. Oh, we do love in-jokes, and these are good ones. She turns people away from the RSC Box Office where she works disadvising them from a 500-year-old Croatian epic revival described in the Indy as visceral. “£20 seats you can’t see, £ 70 you see too much and pay later in booze and therapy…Angry people walking up and down shouting. And where are the WOMEN?”.
It’s wicked, contemptuous, striking with rattlesnake accuracy at ambition and pretension in theatre (“I will do the bus crash in dance”). But is also painfully accurate about the way one young woman persecutes another. And there’s a rom-com plot running under it, predictable but enjoyable.
They even give us some of the finished show – “My womb is a paintbrush” , including a remarkable turn as Trotsky by Scott-Taylor. It world-premieres (one always says that, even if it’s going to be a derriere after two nights) in a pub theatre so new that the compere announces no talking at the bar downstairs in the interval, because the regulars are watching the Chelsea match. Given the play’s wild success at the Rosemary Branch in London, there’s a nice ingratitude about that.
So it’s a gleeful thing, and should sell out, and launch Nash and Scott-Taylor as rising stars on their Edinburgh debut. As to the writing, in sharpness of script it knocks spots of most flatmate (and flattened)  TV comedies of recent years.

http://www.edfringe.com to 30 August

rating four 4 Meece Rating

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