Havana Rakatan, Peacock Theatre
Back for its fifth year at London's Peacock Theatre, Havana Rakatan is clearly an audience favourite and it would seem that fans from previous years returned as they were participating and encouraging the cast well before they were invited to.
As the show got started, the reasons for this affection became apparent. Havana Rakatan is far more than just dance, it is a complete piece of entertainment where the excitement and energy of Cuban dance moves to the guitar, bongos and horn that epitomise the famous Cuban sound, all framed within a two acts that chronicle the history and culture of the Caribbean island through some very strong and at times surprisingly well-acted narratives.
The first few scenes of Act One, where the meeting of the African and European peoples and their traditions that have come to define Cuban culture, played out was memorable; it was a rather serious (and provocative) piece in what is actually a fun and playful show with some of the most charged and urgent dancing in the show delivered in the characterisation of a tribe of enslaved Africans and a female Spanish Flamenco dancer. The scenes that followed were riddled with humour and romance as they portrayed street scenes and the interactions that take place on them; the flirting and courting that leads to a wedding, and the hustle of opportune vendors trying to sell local delicacies to name but a few.
The choreography was throughout enjoyable and the cast of dancers charismatic although there were a few occasions where moves were not executed as cleanly as intended.
While the dance was more pronounced in Act One, where the dancers and choreography played the starring role, in Act Two, the eight piece live band that provided the Cuban rhythms that had the audience writhing in their seats from the very outset took centre stage, quite literally, no longer serving as the supporting act.
The band were brilliant and for me the music the highlight and as the show neared its end, the band coaxing the audience to their feet to finally join in with the dancing and singing could not have been more welcome and the audience happily obliged.
Info: Havana Rakatan is at the Peacock Theatre until 9 October 2011