HOUSE OF FLAMENKA at the Peacock Theatre
“Francisco Hidalgo, the flamenco choreographer, does outstanding work with the company of dancers”
House of Flamenka brings together a wealth of talent in the form of music, singing and dancing, all under the direction of Arlene Phillips. Phillips co-created this show with singer and dancer Karen Ruimy. Together these celebrated artists have produced a show that is best described as a fusion of flamenco and contemporary dance styles accompanied by an upbeat and updated medley of songs. The music includes everything from classics such as Bésame Mucho and Dance Me To The End Of Love (sung by Ruimy) to a more contemporary pop and hip hop vibe for the dancers. Ruimy does the singing to great effect, and the dancers are energetic and versatile. The show is sexy, and alluring.
There is a story to House of Flamenka, but audiences could be forgiven for not noticing. It is the most minimal of narratives, designed to bring together a singer, some dancers, and a set and costumes that would seem improbable under any other circumstances. It is a Broadway fantasy taken to extremes that will remind audiences, frankly, of the darker side of Los Angeles, rather than New York. But for what it’s worth, the narrative involves “a goddess of music and dance whose passion is collecting beautiful objects.” The programme note warns us that hubris is about to visit, but we never really get to find out how or why, unless it’s the disappearance of most of the set in the second half. At any rate, the goddess (Ruimy) presides over a show by her beautiful objects, and often participates. The whole event takes place in her extravagantly designed house, and is, indeed, an appropriate setting for the kind of entertainment that House of Flamenka provides.
There are many strong elements in House of Flamenka, and the footwork in the flamenco influenced numbers is particularly notable. Francisco Hidalgo, the flamenco choreographer, does outstanding work with the company of dancers, many of whom have distinguished careers in the flamenco world. Other dancers are from the world of contemporary dance and dance of the African diaspora — with equally distinguished experience. One of the great challenges of a show like this, then, is how to bring it all together. James Cousins does a brilliant job with the choreography of the numbers that feature contemporary dance. But it has to be said that flamenco, danced only by men (with the exception of Ruimy) feels incomplete, no matter how skillful the artists. Jasmine Swan who designed both set and costumes, manages a functional set despite its extravagance, but the costumes bring more attention to themselves, rather than to the dancers. The exception here are Ruimy’s costumes, which she changes for every number. They are both brilliantly designed and very flattering. But the point of fusion is to bring a variety of diverse styles and traditions together in a satisfying way. Sadly, House of Flamenka doesn’t really manage this in a way that feels organically whole.
If you go to House of Flamenka in search of art house flamenco rather than Broadway, you might be disappointed. Given the extraordinary abilities of the assembled company, you might also feel that House of Flamenka does not quite manage the diversity of its material to best effect. It is missing something that would turn this show from simply a good evening in the theatre, to something truly memorable.
Reviewed on 28th September 2022
by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Pamela Raith
Previously reviewed at this venue: