Review: Tango Fire at Peacock Theatre

Performance: 17 Mar - 11 Apr 09
Reviewed by Mary Kate Connolly - Monday 23 March 2009

Tango Fire, 17 March - 11 April, Peacock Theatre

Welcome to the ‘Café del Tango’ where the lights are low and scarlet red, the tango fast and flashy, and the café‘s clientele, amorous and fiery.

If you, like me, entered this show with high expectations, fuelled by its billing as ‘Argentina’s Hottest Tango Show’, then I’ll wager you were in for a disappointment. One of the most potent elements of the tango is the art of suggestion, the smouldering possibilities that hover in the air as partners circle each other like hunter and prey. Subtlety and the internalisation of emotion are key here; in the tango one does not wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve and certainly not on one’s face, but in every fibre and sinew of the body – the snaking of a leg, or the arching of a spine. Watching Tango Fire presented me with a dilemma: whilst I could not fault the immense technical skill of the dancers, the brash high-octane delivery of furious and at times mock comic choreography left me frankly, cold.

Tango Fire is quite simply a vehicle through which to present crowd pleasing thrills, and as such has little subtlety or cohesion. Amid the surroundings evocative of a murky café, dancers partner up, square off, mock fight (men with fisticuffs and women with pouts), and deliver breathless intricate numbers with showy grins. Costume changes come around almost as fast as the tricky footwork and perilous leg swishes that pepper the duets. In between this, the singer Pablo Lago emerges as if from nowhere, to croon with the band.

I think what I found most disappointing about Tango Fire was that whilst each separate ingredient was quite complete and strong on its own, in combination, became a confection of saccharine horror. Unarguably every couple were highly accomplished and extremely likable, displaying slick technique. The band played with panache, and the singing, in moderation, was rather evocative. The glitz and pizzazz of the rendition however, gradually eroded the magic, and bathed all in a layer of the kitsch. Doubtless the skill of the performers in Tango Fire would have carried a far subtler production, which I think, would have captivated their audience in a more profound way. In Tango Fire it seemed that both performers and tango itself were done a disservice. Fewer sequins please.

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