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Snakes & Ladders

digitised photo of actress

I am tired, exhausted and totally alive. I am rehearsing like an obsessive for Snakes & Ladders. The play is about 3 sisters and family secrets!!!  It's also inspired by stories and memories collected by Positive Hair Day (PHD) project. The actors performing in it have also helped to devise the script and have contributed HAIRstories to the Positive Hair Day project.

I just can not believe that I will be on stage on Friday 21st October at Sallis Benney and Saturday  22nd at the Basement in Brighton.

And what is going on with the current timing of things? I find myself taking part in a pilot school project with Creative Partnership and Afrikaba in Hastings for Black History Month. It is full on to continue preparing, staying alert and interacting with 25 active, eager and not so eager children.

Getting up at 6 am and after school racing back on the train for rehearsals every night. I fall into bed around midnight and whooheee up at 6 am again. I found myself waking up this morning with clenched teeth and try to remember during the day to relax my jaws. I power breath every morning and deep breath every evening, I take extra vitamins and threw my diet out the window and eat well and often.

I told my son, “This week, don’t expect me to cook, clean, wash dishes or clothes. This is so far my most intensive week. I am at present learning my lines for my particular monologue and use a particular method to remember, that includes lots of physicality, visuals, integrating at every space of the day and permit myself improvisation, as long as the context makes sense.

Then with my fellow performers we are rehearsing the cues for our interactions, alongside digital interventions. We laugh a lot and let off steam if necessary. There is a way of staying real and flourishes and niceties are no longer required, but lots of hugs and the sneaky shared cigarette does the trick.

In terms of my character, I can say one thing. I have become fitter, I power up the Brighton hills like a trouper now, all courtesy of the rehearsals. My character is slightly mad and will play this out in her physicality. That is so right on with me.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 21 October 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 21 October 2011

An Experiment

When I joined Sync South East it was the beginning of a tremendous journey. What I particularly valued was having space and time to develop a new frame of mind, exchanging and debating with my fellow artists and questioning assumptions about disability art. The journey was equally challenging and empowering.

One of the final goals was the Pitch! showcase on 22 June 2011. It gave us the opportunity to deliver our artistic and professional practice to producers, venues and promoters at The Stables, in Milton Keynes. I decided on a new approach to performing my poetry; involving the audience, make them part of my performance. I handed out printed poems with little explanation. This was highly experimental and unrehearsed. But the element of surprise on both sides worked! At points in my performance I spontaneously got one of the audience members to read out some of the lines. Furthermore, what I discovered when an audience member read out, I began to perform to their voice and style and this became an interaction between the two of us. The feedback was positive and exhilarating. From this experience I have decided to develop this practice further. I now see this as a strength rather then a barrier.

Red Saviour
She is nine years old and worships red

Shoes, hot air, autumn leaves
toys, angel wings, sunsets
buttons, dreams and clothes.

Smelling flowers
send pulsating signals
stop the stench of death

Wrapping her shawl tight
around her right stump,
pain instantly disappears

The fire engine’s red rush
is her favourite
race to the rescue

Sirens ring the alarm
Flashing lights spin
Ladders escape to the sky

Since she arrived
alone at the airport
Red became her

Camouflaging the scars
under her skin
inside out

Red makes everything real.

You can read my poem 'Red Saviour' and others in the anthology 'When Red is Black' SBN: 9781845231293 by
You can see me perform at the Turner Contemporary in Margate  for AfriKaba  on 25 September 2011 at 3 pm.

Posted by Anonymous, 8 September 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 13 February 2014

Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera: Masterpieces from The Gelman Collection

The three galleries showing Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s work were positively humming as I got my first taste of the work. The exhibition began with Rivera's ‘Ultima Hora - Last Hour’. Painted in 1911 in Paris it stood alone as an example of his early experiments with cubism in a room containing his portraiture and figurative painting.

In relation to a lithograph of Kahlo nude, she says of Rivera: “He possesses extraordinarily good taste. He admires and appreciates everything that contains beauty when it vibrates in a woman or in a mountain... " This statement seems to sum up the turbulence, mixed with humour and affection in their relationship.

Rivera’s lilies represent a multitude of metaphor that appeal to me. In the social Mexican scene of ‘Calla Lily Vendors’, the flowers are central to the painting, mediating between the women sellers in the foreground and a tradesman in the background, who appeared simply as a hat buried in the lilies. There is an implied spiritual dimension in the way the vendors offer the lilies whilst holding on to the basket. In the portrait of patron, Natasha Zakolkova, lilies mirror the sensuality expressed in her elongated body. Both the woman and lilies are painted in similar hues of white.   Kahlo’s artwork resonates emotionally, artistically and spiritually. This is particularly because of the pride she demonstrates, in the experience of being a disabled artist and of being of multi-heritage (German, Mexican, Spanish, Indian). As someone of mixed heritage also, I identify with the nuances in how she expresses this experience in her painting.   Frida declined an invitation to become part of the surrealist movement because of the way her style mixed European and Mexican influences, saying: “They are so damn intellectual and rotten that I can’t stand them anymore. I rather sit on the floor of the market, than to have anything to do with any of these artists”. Kahlo’s “Self Portrait with Braid” makes reference to her Mexican and Indian roots in her elaborate hairstyle and stone necklace. This is further enhanced by ‘The Love Embrace’ that depicts her as a Madonna-like figure embraced by the universe and Mexican/Indian mother statue. Her symbols demonstrate a unity of different cultures and belief that not only inform, but enrich each other.

Frida’s 'Self-portrait with Monkeys' is full of tenderness in which they surround and embrace her. Their puzzled faces seeking protection and nurture. Frida was unable to bear children and portrait seems to imply her deep desire. Frida kept spider monkeys as pets, amongst others, to keep her company.

Her disabled self is implied in several self-portraits on show here. Kahlo depicts herself from the shoulders up, straight backed and regal. Her paintings assert a presence that is informed by her culture, personal politics and spirituality. Kahlo’s direct and implied visual language speaks of her pride, suffering and resilience.

The ‘Tehuana or Diego in My Thoughts’ dominates as soon as you enter the doorway to the third gallery. I was pulled in to its delicacy on approaching. The traditional lace headdress surrounding her face like an aura, makes her look iconic with Rivera as her third eye. The fine lace extends further into fine white threads that are entangled with darker strands connecting with the earth. The painting: ‘The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth’ is shown alongside, again making a reference to spirituality, her multi heritage culture and her love for Rivera.

This exhibition speaks deeply about Diego and Kahlo’s relationship. The work demonstrates a spiritual affiliation with their culture, and the way they cultivated, and promoted that love, bound up with their artistic, political and social life.

Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera: Masterpieces from The Gelman Collection 
is on show at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester until 2 October 2011

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 6 August 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 21 October 2011