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Peacock Theatre   

House of Flamenka
4.0Reviewer's rating

I was not sure what to expect of an evening of Flamenco dancing but this was not it. Enter 19 young men dancing their hearts out in a magnificent feat of energy and talent, gyrating and stomping sexily across the stage. If you want something exciting and different to fill your evening, this is it. This is an extravaganza as camp as Christmas.

The set opens with a lavish French boudoir adorned with ruched curtains, vases of feathers, chez-lounges and purple lights, reminiscent of a bordello. We are introduced to youths in skimpy matador suits, some in shorts, leather braces and thigh-length stockings. The set changes to scaffolding from which youths hang or pose or dance.

While The House of Flamenka is obviously intended as a vehicle for Karen Ruimy, with her taking centre stage, in this case the vehicle somewhat overtakes her. Though I was jolted into envy at her fantastic body, slim, long legs, the 57-year-old Ruimy surrounded by adoring young men, it was the male dancers who conquered the night.  Every one of them thrust forward their individual personalities yet also work in total harmony to create a sexually charged stage of erotic dance.

Certain scenes stand out as we are served with scene after scene of costume changes and various dances, some of them a tribute to Bob Fosse, with great choreography by Francisco Hidalgo and James Cousins. Male lovers dance with hats and kisses, young men dress as maids in pink dresses flapping pink feather dusters as they flounce their way across the stage, bodices and feathers make them out like tarts, and purple tutus turn them into sluttish ballerinas. The music alternates between Spanish songs and electric house music. The only women apart from Ruimy are kept fairly hidden, musicians playing drums to the bossa nova beat.

Ruimy has done herself proud finding such a great dancing troupe and managing to put on such a spectacle. She produced and co-created the show with Arlene Philips who also directed, but it is really the choreography and the male dancers who steal the show. Ruimy certainly looks the part with constant changes of exotic costumes, in and out of different long red gowns and gold lamé sparkly dresses as she struts her way on and off stage. She definitely has presence. She sings some familiar songs which were enjoyable and was brave enough to take on Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love.

My biggest criticism (and this is small given the extravagance of the show) was that there was no identifiable storyline and it ended up as a series of sets interspersed by Ruimy singing. The programme gives the plot as set in a fantasy world of a goddess of music and dance whose passion is collecting beautiful objects, her prized possessions are her dancers and musicians who perform just for her. The gods punish her for her contempt of them and supposedly strip her and her possessions of their former life, though none of this seems evident on stage.

The second act was darker, and more erotic. Ruimy marches in and out dressed in a black gown and veil, the men in black feather boa necklaces as if at a funeral…except the men do not have many clothes on. One memorable dance routine is done without music, just clicking fingers and stomping feet.

The audience were on their feet at the end, dancing and applauding –I have not seen better male dancing for years.

  • Dance Theatre
  • Director and Creator: Alene Philips
  • Producer and Co-creator: Karen Ruimy
  • Choreography: James Cousins and Franscisco Hidalago
  • Cast: Karen Ruimy, Francisco Hidalgo, Flamenco Dancers
  • Peacock Theatre   
  • Until 8th October 2022
  • Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes (including one 20 minute interval)

About The Author

Reviewer (London/UK)

Julie Peakman is a historian and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She is a frequent contributor to journals, magazines, and television documentaries on history, culture, sex, and feminism. She started life in the theatre as an actress and is currently writing her next book (‘Love and Lusts in London’) while working as a librettist developing her books for the theatre.

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