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Rossy de Palma, the atypical, unmistakeable muse of Spanish film-maker Pedro Almodovar, brings her electrifying presence to the New Settings stage, in the person of a brazen world traveller, on a checker-board set by visual artist Jessica Mitrani. A dazzling, imaginative adventure exploring the changing faces of femininity.
Like the Surrealist collagists she so admires, Jessica Mitrani fans any and every spark of inspiration. Her show Traveling Lady began with a single photograph of Nellie Bly (a.k.a. American journalist Elizabeth Jane Cotrane), the intrepid pioneer of undercover reporting. In 1889, charged by her newspaper with breaking Phileas Fogg’s fictional record, she journeyed around the world in 72 days, taking only the clothes she stood up in, several changes of underwear and a small bag of toiletries (famously, a pot of cold cream).
Who better than Almodovar’s cherished muse to embody Nellie Bly in the maelstrom of a complex multimedia performance? Live and on screen, multiple and unique, Rossy de Palma assumes Bly’s mantle (actually, her iconic travelling coat), specially adapted by Jessica Mitrani using state-of-the-art technology. Projections, lighting, animation and a wealth of theatrical artifice are deployed to explore the ambiguities of female identity, imposed or freely embraced.
Eschewing the ‘travelling lady’s’ traditional paraphernalia (with a minor concession to the pot of cold cream), Nellie Bly is a fitting focus for De Palma’s subtle artistry and the talents of indomitable artist Jessica Mitrani, a former lawyer, dedicated to the cause of women, and the author of a distinguished body of work in sculpture, video and fashion. Together, the ‘travelling ladies’ present a surreal game of true or false, blurring appearances, reality and historical periods in a series of delicious, extravagant, free-ranging riffs, with a healthy dose of self-deprecating wit.
New Settings festival at Théâtre de la Cité Internationale
17 bd Jourdan, 75014 Paris
Director, art: Jessica Mitrani
Actor : Rossy de Palma
Dancer: Jordan Morley
Digital realization: Alex Czetwertynski
Animation: Brian Close at Georgia
Sets: Christian Wassmann
Production under way, with the support of the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès New Settings program,