Meet Francesca Woodman, a photographer, and Sloan Rankin - one of her best friends, occasional model, and creative co-conspirator. Beginning with their meeting at Rhode Island School of Design, this show seeks to bring to life Francesca's photographs, entwining them with the pair's dialogue and drawing out her tragic tale. This imaginative bio-fiction piece is a credit to the writer; the unusual presentation reflects well the innovations and style of its subject.
Given her first camera at 13 years old, Francesca's style focussed primarily on how bodies relate to space. Most of her pictures feature nude women - especially herself - often in decaying buildings and blurred through long exposures. Her photographic career was brief; sadly, she took her own life at 22, but her creative style was mature and distinctive. Though largely unrecognised during her lifetime, her work is prolific, and has since been exhibited around the world.
This production explores both the mind of Francesca Woodman and the world of her photographs. With only two women placed between gauze drapes, in front of a projector screen and a bath tub, it succeeds remarkably well. Clever use of projection - both front and back - allow us to travel through the settings where her art was created, while the natural back-and-forth of their conversations lead us through Francesca's short and troubled life. I especially enjoyed the use of live video projection, and feel the play would have benefitted from more of it (even though Francesca herself only experimented briefly with the medium).
Steady, sensible and understanding words from Sloan guide us through the history - and contrast with the flitting, dreamlike comments from Francesca, which seek to give us insight into her art and mental state. Through her friendship with Sloan, we find out more about Francesca's inspiration and intent, and are drawn into the recreations of her works. More could be done to give those who are unfamiliar with Francesca's art a clearer idea of the background and starting point of the play. However, even the uninitiated will find themselves engrossed by the creative process, and grieved by the loss of this young talent.
Nudity is used very well, both in recreating the original photographs with their naked bodies, but also as a symbol for the laying bare of inner feelings and the vulnerability of the mentally-ill Francesca. The dressing and undressing of the actors is done very smoothly, and for the most part feels very natural.
Though her story is ultimately a tragic one, the show is not morbid; it is a reflection of the life and language Francesca found through photography. It captures a sense of both her difficulties and her intents, and is beautifully finished with her last journal entry: "I was inventing a language for people to see the everyday things that I also see... and show them something different."