La Niña Barro @ Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh

La Niña Barro is a stunning, experimental inquest into bodies and femininity.

Review by Andrea Cabrera Luna | 18 Mar 2024
  • La Niña Barro

A decade after its Fringe premiere, Fronteiras Theatre Lab bring La Niña Barro back to the Edinburgh stage. The performance is based on a collection of 28 poems written by the Basque poet Marta Massé, who formed an artistic bond with director Flavia D’Avila after the two met in 2012. The selective adaptation of the original poems incorporates 25 stanzas, focusing on the theme of the female body and its relationship with earth. 

At the outset, the girl – performed by the brilliantly Grotowskian Elizabeth Sogord – lies dormant, concealed from the audience beneath layers of plastic bags lit by Pedro Vera’s warm tones. As Sogord removes them, her naked body is revealed, entirely covered in mud. Actions are minimal, and every movement contributes to the intensification of feminine presence. 

Alexandra Rodes takes on a rather diminished second character in the narrative, as well as playing the sweetly healing mbira, or thumb piano. Sogord playfully dips her hands and feet in water. Rodes aggressively washes the remaining mud off the girl’s body, symbolising an ominous rite of passage.

The greatest aspects of La Niña Barro follow in the tradition of Cuban-American performance artist Ana Mendieta, who described her work as “earth body”, using her own body to create an astonishing collection of silhouettes in mud. However, contemplative moments akin to painting, sculpture or drawing are interrupted by mundane interactions with the second character, such as when a red dress is thrown at the earthen girl, who proceeds to get dressed, effectively transforming into a more domesticated representation of womanhood. 

Although the experimental intersection between performance art and theatre is an exciting one, throughout the performance I found myself wishing La Niña Barro would lean more towards its elemental and ritualistic aspects and dispense with narrative and plot.

La Niña Barro, Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh, run ended