You've got to hand it to them. Spain has got itself a fantastic press agent. Only 15 years ago, Spain was naff beyond belief and served as shorthand for cheap package holidays, filthy wine, bogus champagne and tawdry floorshows. Suddenly everything changed and soon you couldn't move for articles about the undiscovered Benidorm, the thrifty pleasures of Cava and where to find the best caracoles. Like Bob Monkhouse and the anorak, Spain went all the way through naff and came out the other side. I blame Robert Elms. All this has been good news for Majorcan hotel-keepers, Rioja importers and touring flamenco troupes.
Antonio Gades, veteran flamenco showman, brings his company to Britain next week, first to Glasgow and then to London. Most flamenco shows stick to the basic tablao format of song, guitar and dance, but Gades manages the difficult trick of using the dance in a narrative context. There are plenty of stories that can't be told by flamenco dancers but Gades has wisely selected simple melodramas which translate well into dance. In Glasgow, the company perform a version of Fuenteovejuna, Lope de Vega's 1614 play in which the brutal exercise of droit de seigneur triggers a peasants' revolt. In London they dance Carmen.
In 1983 Gades and his collaborator, the film director Carlos Saura, found a way to re-tell Merimee's tale of sexual jealousy which updated the narrative while staying true to its soul. Gades reworks the story as a backstage drama in which Don Jose and Carmen are both dancers rehearsing the work. The result is a major achievement that proves that flamenco has a far wider expressive range than it is usually given credit for. At 60, Gades remains an extraordinary performer, and he is superbly matched by the remarkable Stella Arauzo.
Independent and Eye readers in Glasgow can buy two higher-price tickets (normally pounds 17.50, pounds 20 or pounds 22.50 each) for the price of one for the performance of Fuenteovejuna at the Royal Concert Hall on 6 May by ringing 0141-287 5511 and mentioning this offer. London readers can buy top-price tickets (normally pounds 32.50 each) at a discounted price of pounds 25 for the performance on 13 May at the Peacock Theatre by ringing 0171-314 8800. Subject to availabilityReuse content