Campanas Flamencas; Peacock Theatre
Campanas Flamencas

Peacock Theatre

Sex, death, poverty and suede boots. Traditionally, no flamenco show is complete without some reference to these dark forces that have shaped the Andalusian soul. In fact, of course, the average hispanic hoofer was born in a trunk and has had theatre in the bloodline for going on two centuries. The CVs of the cast of all bear this out. Mothers, sisters, cousins are all in the business. They make up the latest offering from Francisco Sanchez - the man who conceived the sublime Cumbre Flamenca which toured the world during the Eighties. Their two-part show at the Peacock Theatre is a decidedly mixed bill.

After some atmospheric anvil-bashing, the Mozarabic miaow of Talegon de Cordoba goes up and we are treated to one of Sanchez's ill-advised experiments in narrative dance in which a woman in white (the Moon) exerts an unhealthy influence on the company's men. It is here we get our first glimpse of Nino de los Reyes who is famous for being 12. Although most of his fellow performers made their professional debuts in adolescence, junior league flamenco is something of a novelty here. On Wednesday's evidence his talent is insufficient to justify the exposure. His arm movements seem oddly undecided, the hand grabbing at the lapels of an invisible waistcoat in a fidgety manner, and his whole body lacks the centred menace of the mature bailaor. He was followed by his 18-year-old brother Isaac who has been blessed with matinee idol looks but when will they learn that an expression of permanent irritation is no substitute for personality?

When the curtain rose again we saw La Tati resplendent in an ivory lace bata de cola, the ruffles lapping round her feet as if she'd been served with a side order of whipped cream. Her alegrias built into a deliciously demented sequence of struts and kicks. The dreary de los Reyes brothers were a very hard act to follow and La Tati had to breathe life into a now moribund evening. She did not rest until she had done so.

The good work was carried on in the second half by Milagros Mengibar sumptuously upholstered in black silk embroidered with scarlet hibiscus blossoms. Unlike La Tati, whose solos are rooted in the sluttish thrust of her parted thighs, Mengibar's artistry is more in the upper body, her Junoesque physique curving into statuesque shapes in the true Sevillian style.

The women had certainly saved the show but just when it looked as if they might steal it we got a taste of Joaquin Grilo. Like Nino de los Reyes, the 30-year-old Grilo made his professional debut in his early teens but there was probably a very good reason for this. Handsome (we're talking George Clooney in Cuban heels), a superb dancer and saucy with it, his solea por bulerias reminded us of all the texture and variety of male flamenco dancing. Not only were his solos superb, he also proved an exciting team player. During the finale of tangos he incited La Tati to perform further miracles with her mesmerisingly mobile pelvis which began to twitch with primal passion at every flick of his wrist.

Peacock Theatre, London WC2 to 8 March (0171-314 8800).

Louise Levene

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