NITRO produced the excellent Slamdunk a few years ago and it played to packed audiences all over the country. This innovative company creates fresh, black musical theatre, hopefully attracting a more diverse audience. When I saw Slamdunk, the electric atmosphere was more like a live gig than a play.
Now the company team up with the Octagon Theatre to produce a piece, inspired by the sexy sound of salsa. Cuban heartbreaker, José leaves Cuba for a fresh start in London with his new British wife. He turns his back on his family’s dream of becoming a doctor, preferring to teach salsa, instead. But, he ends up betraying all those around him as he seduces a young girl named, Miranda.
Sounds corny, I know, and during the first act, this tale resembles Dirty Dancing in Stoke Newington! You can imagine Baby/Johnny lovers being attracted by the appeal of dancers bumping and grinding. But, there is so much more to it, as the all enveloping twist in act two reveals.
The performers are all excellent, convincing throughout and dancing up a storm. Madeline Appiah’s Miranda is a repressed ‘good girl’ who slowly unravels, playing into the hands of the Cuban heart-throb. She and David Gyasi generate real passion as the forbidden pair.
Troy Titus-Adams plays voice of reason, Kathleen, who works alongside the Cuban Casanova. She is a great dancer and portrays her character’s determination and female intuition incredibly well. Anthony Mark Barrow is also excellent as the heartbroken husband to be, whose life comes crashing down, creating murder on the dance floor.
There is more than able support provided by a superb team of dancers and supporting actors. Debra Michaels’ sultry choreography enables them to bring passion, sex and fear to the stage and they acquit themselves incredibly well.
Felix Cross’ writing is at times sharp and others, unfortunately flaccid. But you cannot take your eyes off this highly original piece of theatre. As director also – his fragmented narrative unfolds at a rapid rate, drawing you into this sexy tale.
The denouement is literally heart breaking. This show will gain a following due to the TV dance reality shows. It deserves to win many plaudits as despite the odd piece of corny dialogue, it’s a hot show, full of emotion and high drama. Everybody Salsa!
- Glenn Meads (reviewed at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton)