Astrid Hadad will don a tangerine-hued dress of paper marigolds, a dark bustled dress festooned with skulls and a satiny Aztec pyramid-shaped number punctuated with gun-wielding skeletons for a Mexican Day of the Dead show at the Vogue Theatre Oct. 25 and 26.
With the backing of her band, Los Tarzanes, the subversive singer, comedian and performance artist from Mexico City will tackle politics, orgasms and death.
“There are special songs,” Hadad said. “There is a lot of humour about death.”
The cabaret diva of 30 years who sold out the Chan Centre seven years ago draws from the “rich mother lode” of Mexican history and culture, from Catholic saints, Aztec and Mayan iconography to revolutionary heroes, folk ballads, the golden era of Mexican cinema and Latin popular culture, according to her press bumph. Her band combines elements of ranchero, bolera, samba, rumba, rock and jazz.
Hadad grew up in a conservative family in the Yucatan peninsula as the middle child of 11.
“I never obeyed [anything],” said the woman who likes to provoke audiences while she entertains.
“When you are in a conservative family it gives you more clarity to see the world,” Hadad added. “For me, to come from a conservative family made me more free because I know what I left behind… and I know what I am now.”
Upon leaving her loving family, Hadad studied politics and then attended theatre school.
“Politics is like an obsession for me because I see how important politics is in life, even though most people in Mexico, they’re not interested in politics because they know that that rules our life,” she said.
Hadad started performing as a singer but soon realized she “wanted to do something more.”
She began designing her wild costumes—20 of them compose an exhibit that’s touring Mexico—to capture viewers’ imaginations.
“I knew to take the heart and mind of people, it’s sometimes stronger with images,” Hadad said. “I felt also that my contact with people was stronger. You can sing in China or in Australia or in Norway and people, even [if] they don’t understand the songs, they can take the essence of what I am doing.”
Hadad will sing in Spanish during her Vancouver show but preface her songs with stories in English so everyone can follow along.
Her performance style is influenced by European cabaret along with the Teatro del la Revista—theatre that went a long way not only to entertain but also to inform people about the issues of the day in the beginning of the 20th century in Mexico when there were only two newspapers, according to Hadad.
When the colourful performer started her career three decades ago, she said Mexican audiences thought cabaret performances meant exotic dancers. Now clubs in Mexico City support a vibrant cabaret scene that includes politically oriented female cabaret artists.
“In Mexico, there are a lot of things to criticize, and I think in the world,” Hadad said.
The Oct. 25 event begins at 8 p.m. and includes local performers and prizes for the best Day of the Dead costumes. For more information, see voguetheatre.com.