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Brazil! Brazil!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Underbelly's Pasture
5-30 August, 18.55

You may have noticed the World Cup football competition this summer. Brazil! Brazil! catches the mood, and the fever, in a beguiling display of soccer skills, acrobatics, samba, street music and martial arts, with percussion and guitar accompaniment and rough, raw singing.

The good thing about this show is that it retains its authenticity and enters no softening or compromise to British audiences. The cast comes from the favelas and ghettos of Brazil where they work with children and social projects; their bodies vibrate with their passions and enthusiasms.

But while there is a series of explanations of how the culture evolved, and why they are so good at football – the British invented the game, the Brazilians perfected it, we are told, not very controversially – there is no story or narrative.

Brazil! Brazil! is a sideshow, a cabaret, and at 70 minutes running time, a very entertaining one. It will be a wow at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. But when you watch the freakishly skilful Arthur Mansilla do Cristiano Ronaldo-style cross-overs while juggling a football on his bandy legs, or execute a stunning sort of break dance with the ball to the band’s pulsating rhythms, you might as well be watching a performing seal.

The martial arts, or capoeira, are related to the liberation fights of an enslaved people, and then demonstrated with amazing athleticism in a whirring dance of  flying limbs and waxed torsos. The samba, too, is a rhythm of national expression, and the insinuating, hypnotic dance is led by the wonderful singer Margary Lord in a tangerine dress dotted with flowers.

The show ends with a circus-like tumult of somersaulting, and one of the more excruciating specialities is that of the fuzzy-haired chap who double-flips backwards and lands in the splits. Ouch! The speed and delight of the athletes is great to behold.

NOTE: The above review dates from June 2010 and this production's original run in the Udderbelly's London season. At the Edinburgh Fringe, Brazil! Brazil! runs from 5-30 August 2010 at the Udderbelly, Bristo Square, Edinburgh.


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