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Flamenco Flamen’ka

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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It seems an age since Antonio Gades and his exotic foot-stompers were a novelty at Sadler’s Wells. London has been flooded with flamenco shows, Argentinian tango shows, salsa dancing, dirty dancing, Matthew Bourne again and again, Peter Pan El Musical, Zorro ...and on television we now have Strictly Come Dancing (sixth series) in which Craig Revel Horwood is one of four judges (the mean one) leading a new national craze for gypsy, tipsy dancing.

Like the old lady with one buttock in Candide, I feel suddenly Spanish. The great merit of Revel Horwood’s hybrid, low-bred flamenco show at the Lyric is that it seems to combine all these elements and serve them up with a certain dash and panache without really justifying itself as a dramatic entity or indeed the sort of tragic narrative you might expect from a piece based on a Jorge Luis Borges story, The Intruder, in which two brothers fall in love with the same girl and end up killing her.

How or why this happens is not clear. It just happens, and is repeated, inside and outside of a bordello, until the heels stop clicking and the castanets stop clacking. Poor old Sharon Sultan as a gaudily clad, raven-haired Juliano Burgos, the victim of convergent fraternal sex drives, ends up like a Joan Collins sandwich, tangoed to death with salsa to taste.

Diego Pitarch’s setting is an Andalusian square bounded by Moorish arches, a tiled roof, shuttered windows above and a hugely convenient parquet dance floor beneath. Upstage alcoves house on one side the flamenco band featuring the wonderful wailing of Cristo Cortes; on the other, a tango quartet led by Ninon Foiret on the melancholic Argentinian squeezebox called a bandoneon. Music ranges from “Besa me mucho” to snatches of “Bolero,” “The Girl from Ipanema” (in this case “The Boy from Buenos Aires”) and various fandangos and dances macabre.

The sporadic highlights, though, reside in the purest flamenco bursts such as a superb dagger dance performed in a phalanx of male furies, the steamy couplings in the brothel (a chandelier flies in, nice naff touch), and the amazing solos of Francisco Hidalgo and Manuel Gutierrez Cabello as the brothers, the first with the loudest finger-clicking I’ve ever heard – he’s finger-clicking good, in fact - the second executing a one-foot shivering “hey toro” tap routine that, along with his jacket-ripping sultriness, implies the whole romantic escapade will end in violence and tears. And, guess what...

- Michael Coveney


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