Gardens of delight with Frida & Derek

22 March 2017 Blogger in Chief

Who’d be an impresario, hey?

One week of a festival your cast is sweating it out on very warm late summer evenings, the next week it’s distinctly milder early autumn and you’re hoping your decision to stage your new show outdoors is paying off.

You can stop hoping, Robert Jarman: you’ve done it (of course).

Frida and Derek is original Tasmanian theatre, based on the entirely unconventional lives of painter Frida Kahlo and filmmaker Derek Jarman. The two appear to have little in common, other than having died young and both loving their gardens; hence the outdoor setting at Claremont House – an excellent choice. But other similarities emerge.

Their stories are told separately, which works and in rather different styles, which is slightly less successful. Kahlo’s story comes alive through excellent scripting and acting, clever staging – on a tiny riser! – and music performed by the exceptional Fiona Stewart and the cast.

Jarman (the playwright) takes a more ‘documentary’ approach to Jarman (the filmmaker) with characters weaving a narrative about him through vignettes, rather than a linear storyline. While not all of it works, you come away with a fresh appreciation for a genuinely trailblazing character.

In the end you’re entertained and left wanting to know more about the all-too-short lives of the subjects. This is thoroughly enjoyable, ballsy theatre and all credit to the cast for warming up a chilly evening and delivering a new show with aplomb.

Get your folding chair out, grab a warm jacket from the back of the wardrobe, and go and see it (Claremont House 23 March, Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens 28 March-1 April).