This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

Love Letters

The first thing that you see as you enter the space is the slumped body of performer/dancer Caroline Bowditch on a bright yellow table, looking in a mirror at herself, looking at the audience looking back at her. Such an act is a statement of intent: Edinburgh Fringe sell-out “Falling in Love with Frida” is both self-reflexive portrait and a homage to the great Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-54).


Caroline Bowditch: “Falling in Love with Frida”


Dundee Rep Theatre, Dundee, Scotland, October 31, 2015


Lorna Irvine

Caroline Bowditch's “Falling in Love with Frida”. Photograph by Anthony Hopwood

subscribe to the latest in dance

“Uncommonly intelligent, substantial coverage.”

  • Weekly articles from the world of dance
  • Wide diversity of reviews, interviews, articles & more
  • Support for quality art journalism

Already a paid subscriber? Login

Kahlo's debilitating injuries resulting from a terrible bus crash at age eighteen are interwoven with Australian Bowditch's own personal experiences—she has brittle bone disorder—and as a disabled contemporary artist. Yet, this moving and wonderful piece is not about disability per se, but rather a multi-layered celebration: a lusty paean to womanhood in all of its colours, curves and shades.

“Falling in Love with Frida” artfully avoids the traps of cultural appropriation; a kitsch exercise in Mexican cliches, with a tourist-eye view of colourful melodrama it is not. (Recalling Salma Hayek and Julie Taymor's bio-pic 2002 Frida, which reduced Kahlo to a victim of patriarchy and her own exotic hotheadedness.) Her Kahlo is a survivor—real, fleshy, vulnerable yet strong. “I feel as if I know you . . .. You never wore underwear,” she says, “you liked to smoke unfiltered cigarettes which turned your teeth black. You hated pink nipples.”

Fusing voluptuous choreography with an open letter from Bowditch to Kahlo, Bowditch is accompanied by her gorgeous trio: Welly O'Brien, Marta Masiero, and Yvonne Strain providing British Sign Language, all dressed in Kahlo-esque flamboyant finery, before stripping down to petticoats.

O'Brien and Masiero first appear in tableaux vivants, preening like adolescent girls in the first bloom of sexual awakening, before flexing, spasming and crashing to the ground—a powerful evocation of Kahlo's horrific accident.

Bowditch, her face the picture of longing and mischief, archly regards her obsession with Kahlo as “the perfect unrequited love affair—she's dead!” before revealing her real reason for Kahlo as muse:

“She makes me want to be braver.”

The women act as different facets of Frida Kahlo's character: proud; flirtatious, deeply despairing, and in one poignant scene, restricted in movement by pretty pink ribbons. Arms and hands flutter, like a bird which can never take flight. Thwarted, yet undaunted, the women stick out lascivious tongues and strike balletic poses.

They are never still, ever restless until the moment when, backs cheekily turned to the audience, they slurp watermelons at the yellow table, cackling like a family in a brothel. Bowditch comes to the front of the audience, offering a man in the front row a taste. “I don't usually give it to men,” she quips with a grin.

Bathed in a warm Mediterranean glow (Emma Jones' lighting, complementing Katherina Radeva's cacti-filled set, provides the intimacy of a cabaret setting) Bowditch confesses her first lesbian experience, with a woman called Susan, happened later in life—her twenties. Kahlo had many lovers, male and female, and this unabashed appetite for sex is implicit, in the flash of underwear, a slightly raised eyebrow or the arch of a back—yet never sleazy or gratuitous.

As everyone (theatre staff included!) knock back a shot of neat tequila (what else?) in a toast to Frida Kahlo, this is one show which defies simple categorisation: a provocation, an exploration, and visceral love letter to the untamed, timeless appeal of women's bodies, minds and spirits. Caroline Bowditch has created a loving, profound, passionate and uncompromising slice of dance theatre which soars in unexpected places, challenges and tickles.

Cacti are spiky, but just look at the beautiful flowers that they produce.

Lorna Irvine

Based in Glasgow, Lorna was delightfully corrupted by the work of Michael Clark in her early teens, and has never looked back. Passionate about dance, music, and theatre she writes regularly for the List, Across the Arts and Exeunt. She also wrote on dance, drama and whatever particular obsession she had that week for the Shimmy, the Skinny and TLG and has contributed to Mslexia, TYCI and the Vile Blog.



Sound Effect
REVIEWS | Rachel Howard

Sound Effect

Sometimes there’s not much you’re able to say analytically about a dance work, and yet you know you’ve just witnessed a blood-guts-and-soul offering from an artist of the keenest kinaesthetic intelligence. Such was the case with gizeh muñiz vengel’s “auiga,” second on a double bill finale for the ARC Edge residency at San Francisco’s CounterPulse.

Continue Reading
Hope is Action
REVIEWS | Gracia Haby

Hope is Action

The Australian Museum Mammalogy Collection holds ten specimens of the Bramble Cay Melomys collected from 1922–24, when they were in abundance. One hundred years later, a familiar photo of a wide-eyed, mosaic-tailed Melomys, the first native mammal to become extinct due to the impacts of climate change, greets me as I enter the Arts House foyer.

Continue Reading
Common Language
INTERVIEWS | Candice Thompson

Common Language

Pre-pandemic, queerness and ballet were two terms not often put together. So, when choreographer Adriana Pierce started bringing a community of queer-identifying people together on Zoom—cis women, trans people of all genders, and nonbinary dancers—it felt like a watershed moment for many of them. 

Living Doll
REVIEWS | Rachel Howard

Living Doll

Watching Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Coppélia,” which the Seattle company generously released as a digital stream for distant fans, you could easily fall down two historically rewarding rabbit holes.

Continue Reading
Good Subscription Agency