Dir. Kerieva McCormick & Ben Harrison, The Arches, 12th-14th Feb
The Arches is possibly the strangest venue ever to have hosted a flamenco show. Dark, gloomy and brick-laden, it is a million miles away from the traditional and beautiful Spanish houses and courtyards associated with the performance. But this is no ordinary show: The Typist is a unique audiovisual experience, telling the story of a young Spanish woman, Esperanza, who flees to the UK during the civil war, by means of a live band and digital projections of war footage alongside experimental forms of flamenco dance.
The excellent array of musicians, a combination of Brits and Spaniards, lead the performance. Of particular note are the outstanding pianist Pablo Suárez and the Scottish guitarist, Andrew Robinson. They initially perform jazz to accompany early dances, with somewhat awkward results, and it is only when the band switches to classic flamenco that the show really steps into gear. While the audience isn’t entirely au fait with typical flamenco show practice, and is apprehensive about applauding after dances, they erupt after this particularly moving scene, the first to involve the incredible singer Olayo Jiménez. There is even a cry of “¡Olé!” from one of the back rows at the show’s outstanding moment.
Despite the success of the traditional elements, the work also succeeds in embracing modernity: the use of projectors displaying the bombing of Guernica on Esperanza’s shawl is particularly powerful. The use of characters’ voiceover, occasional pieces of narration from Alexei Sayle, war footage and special effects, alongside the live musicians and dancers create a very complete and profound performance.
While the show is rather abstract and can be unintuitive, the passion of the performers, Raúl Prieto and Kerieva McCormick, who also co-directs the show, is enthralling. The final scene is intensely emotional, and is met with a standing ovation. Yet even when the dancers are not on stage, the show remains gripping and impassioned, a tribute to its highly successful multimedia approach. This is a truly 21st century approach to a still delicate part of Spanish history, and it is a triumph.
[Ally Shaw – @radalias]