Flamenco Festival, Sadler's Wells, London
At Swim Two Boys, Riverside Studios, London

In case of power failure: deploy the man-eating matron and a tipper-load of bricks

Every February for the past nine years, the Sadler's Wells Flamenco Festival has endeavoured to beam some Spanish sun into chilled, grey souls. In the early days the components were predictable.

There would be a night with a singer in the spotlight, another with guitar. Various upcoming dancers would explore flamenco fusion, and there would be one big, slick, theatrical humdinger with stadium sound and legions of heel-drumming frill-flappers.

This year's line-up strikes a quieter note, celebrating the poet and folklorist Federico Garcia Lorca, murdered at the age of 38 only one month into the Spanish Civil War. Presumably it was the old-school purism of bailaora Manuela Carrasco that made the link with Lorca, he having believed Spain could only thrive if it paid attention to its cultural roots.

But Carrasco had reckoned without the old-school power cut that wiped out the automated lighting cues for her show Suspiro Flamenco – cause for sighs indeed. The show went on, late and somewhat tentative – not Carrasco's style at all.

Sturdy of body and aquiline of profile, a stern veteran of four decades on stage, Carrasco doesn't so much perform as unleash herself. Not for her the polite preliminaries, the pretty, coiling arms. She gets down to business, hands jabbing, feet stamping out rhythms with a fury, and at one point taking a great swiping kick as if booting all her displeasure, all her frustration with that cussed gringo electricity supply, into the stalls.

Her attendants, all male, look as if they think she might eat them later. The burliest, a red-faced cantaor with enormous chops, unbuttons his suit to let out a bellowing "Aaaaay-eeeee", heavy as a tipper-load of bricks, and proceeds to hew chunks from a wall of sound. It would transform the experience to know what he was singing about. "My virgin queen wears a crown of light" or "you murder my sleep, you spawn of a whore"? Note to Sadler's Wells: if opera can be surtitled as a matter of course, why not flamenco?

Distilling an epic novel to a single visual idea might also seem to negate the power of words, but this becomes a selling point in At Swim Two Boys, a dance version of the best-selling Irish novel by Jamie O'Neill. Set at the time of the Easter Rising in 1916, it follows the fate of two teenagers whose impotence in the face of world events is countered by a growing sexual bond. The set is a 12ft wall from which water trickles constantly, slowly filling the shallow trough of a stage, its sound lulling and disturbing by turns as the story progresses.

Except that there barely is a story. Boy loves boy. Boys frolic in sea, Gene Kellys in republican kilts and work boots. One boy dies, something to do with a stolen pistol. End of story.

Daniel Connor and Murilo Leite D'Imperio are terrific performers, fearless, fit (eat your heart out Mr Wet-Shirt Darcy). The live music on accordion and pipes is stirring. But the piece lacks background as well as incident. The few historic images projected on the wall are tantalising. In this case less isn't more, it's undernourished.

Flamenco Festival (0844 412 4300) to 19 Feb; 'At Swim Two Boys' (020-8237 1111) to 25 Feb, then touring

Dance Choice

Could this be, as is claimed, the first new dance to come out of France since the can-can? Electro, a streetdance style with fast arm and hand movements, is the basis of the eight-man show Electro Kif currently on a 12-venue UK tour. Nottingham Playhouse (Mon & Tue), Lowry, Salford (Wed & Thu), Bradford Alhambra (Sun 19 Feb) and touring.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing