Patrick Centre at the Birmingham Hippodrome
March 9, 2017
I see a lot of small dance companies and some efforts, no matter how colossal, can at best be called heroic but uninspiring. The fact is that given the exposing nature of live theatre only genuine magic works, so I’m unusually delighted to report this small company have wagonloads of it and some to spare.
I’ve seen Bizet’s eponymous late 19th-century opera but I’m no expert on the story of Carmen, except I can remember it’s a steamy tale of lust and death set in Southern Spain. But here, company boss and choreographer Bawren Tavaziva makes it the basis for his own new story, set in a modern-day oil-rich military dictatorship somewhere in southern Africa, where central figure Carmen has drifted in search of a new life amongst the exploited workers. And hey, guess what, that makes her story brand new, fresh as post-drought grass on the veldt for this spot-on company.
Avoiding longueurs, Tavaziva cuts straight to the chase, which is hot, hot, hot yet without any of the usual lust-filled clichés. This is pure dance. The air of dangerous risk-taking experimentation is established right from the off in this explosive tale of love in a hot climate, and although terminally horrifying it depicts mesmerizingly the fatal love between two men and one woman. And at only an hour long, economy pays off. What’s more this high-octane stuff is set to what can only be called a superbly sophisticated and highly original filmic soundtrack featuring traditional and very new-sounding music plus elegantly unsettling special effects.
There are some marvellous set pieces – some large-ish and some (very) small featuring truly amazing individual performances. And be warned – there is near nudity at times and some very sexy sex. But Africarmen has a delightfully inclusive international appeal for a whole lot of reasons; the truth is this airing shows us just where the great new stuff will be coming from.
This small independent company really are the goods. More please, more. An hour’s just right, quality not quantity, and perhaps because of this I would love to see it again, soon. Luckily, they tour, so catch them if you can.
Africarmen continues on tour. Visit www.tavazivadance.com for dates and venues.