Sadly, the latest iteration of Cornejo’s productions, Wild Tango, is one of the tackiest, most dispiriting shows it’s ever been my misfortune to have to watch and write about.
Billed as a ‘feast of Argentinian culture’ that's ‘inspired by the origins of the tango when two men danced among themselves’, it is nothing of the sort; rather, a wild mishmash of things (I wouldn’t go so far as to call them styles) including basic acrobatics, the odd bit of tango, and much prancing and hammy macho posturing.
Half-an-hour late starting on press night, with no explanation until a bout of slow clapping provoked a disembodied voice to explain they were having technical difficulties, the curtain eventually went up on a stage that looked like a building site, with two massive towers of scaffolding either side of a poorly lit platform where there stood a four-piece musical combo.
On that stage a dozen dancers, mostly male but with two women much in evidence, stomped about to a loud musical score that leaned towards heavy rock, where the energetic electronic keyboard and persistent thumping of the drums all but obliterated the sound of the one instrument a tango show should privilege, the bandoneon.
For some reason, there were aerial acrobatics with a rope descending from the gantry to hoist up a woman, possibly a good dancer, but no expert acrobat. After some twirling with legs splayed, she was lowered down to continue plying her trade on solid ground.
Whatever tango there was passed by on full speed and soon morphed into something else, as if ashamed of its very nature. Slow sensuality, suggestive mutual chemistry, movements that look like caresses or provocations, the see-sawing of dominance between the partners…the things we’ve come to expect from a tango show, none of that was present, except in a fleeting duet between two men halfway through.
After an overlong interval (clearly the technical problems were not quite resolved) we came back for more of the same.
And the costumes… ah, the costumes! Credited to Gerardo Casas and German Cornejo himself, the first half brought so much black leather and corsetry, spike-heeled thigh-length boots and chains, that for a moment I feared I might have unwittingly strayed into the wrong kind of establishment. As for the second half, if the aim was to hurt our eyes, it worked: canary yellow and acid green predominated, leading to a finale where the men wore shocking pink translucent chemises.
In short, I learnt absolutely nothing about the origins of the tango, not indeed the wider Argentine culture, and the solitary star of this review goes to the dancers, whose commitment cannot be faulted.
|What||German Cornejo's Wild Tango review|
|Where||Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, London, WC2A 2HT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Holborn (underground)|
12 May 22 – 21 May 22, 19:30 Mats Sats & Wed at 14:40. Sun at 14:00 & 18:00 Dur.: 2 hours inc one interval
|Price||£12.50-£55 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|