Culture

Havana Rakatan

Ballet Rakatan artists

I want to go to Cuba; I want to go to Cuba!! I want to go NOW!!  In the average lifetime, taking into account the constraints of the unfortunate, yet necessary need to earn a living, I don’t think it would be possible to visit all the places we dream about.  I have to say though, Cuba was never near the top of the list, and in fact I’m not sure it was on my list at all.  My knowledge of it extended to U.S embargos (and this I only became aware of because it was impossible to buy a decent cigar in America), and the story relayed to me regarding a good friend, many years ago, not being allowed to take a native black girl into his hotel. Of course, the recent release of the Che movies ignited a passion in many of us too, but images of conflict and politics were my overall impression, which possibly made me feel like I wasn’t in a hurry to rush over there.  Of course, the irony born of this, is in fact that from oppression, conflict and poverty a passion and instinct for survival blossoms and flowers with magnificence beyond that of the more fortunate living in a modern country with the average daily conundrum being ‘Nero’s’ or ‘Starbucks’?

The Bay of Pigs, Communism and Hoover’s America were the search engine words of ‘my’ Cuba. Havana Rakatan has changed all that, and I want to get there before Cuba enters her post Castro era. Latin American music and dance is something that has mesmerised me for as long as I can remember, I just didn’t know it could get better than that, that there was anyway of injecting more passion, power and force into Latin beats.  It’s not often this kind of discovery comes along – Fuse African rhythms with Spanish melody and it’s a marriage, possibly one of the few, that certainly will never see inside a divorce court, how refreshing!  This marriage was consummated back in the 16th Century when mostly, West African slaves were being imported into Cuba and made up half the population, their own music with its complex rhythms was not only preserved but, evolved to form the basis of Cuban music, the foundation beneath the Latin beats.

This is muscle, movement and grace, it is awe inspiring dance at its best, writhing bodies combining the fluidity of ballet with the energy of a salsa, its centuries of passion and the will to survive all rolled into the expression of dance. Breathtaking! Each Scene in the two Acts sweeps the audience through the history, the life and the love of Cuba; it is the second best thing to being there. Go and feel the scandal, the drama, the glamour and elegance of Cuba’s people, and leave filled with excitement and inspiration.

Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre     

4th February – 6th March 2010

Michele Cremona

The Little Dog Laughed

“When a straight guy plays a gay part, it’s a stretch.  When a gay actor plays a gay role, its not acting, its bragging” snipes scheming Hollywood agent Diane to her closeted client when he reveals his desire to come out prior to taking the lead role in a new blockbuster he’s been signed for.
Tamsin Greig’s ruthless, domineering character has all the best lines, superbly delivered throughout Douglas Carter-Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed, currently delighting audiences at the Garrick.
This fast-paced comedy, which opened off-Broadway in 2006 and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play and in which Grieg’s counterpart in the New York production won the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, is a sharp, if cynical satire on the hypocrisy of tinsel-town and the lies it casts about the sex-lives of stars.
The easy-on-the-eye Rupert Friend makes his professional stage debut as Mitchell, an actor on the edge of the big time as he travels to New York for meetings. Whilst there, he arranges to meet bisexual rent-boy Alex, played by Harry Lloyd, where the story moves off into the direction of Pretty Woman, only with an unexpected twist at the end.
With some tasteful nudity to the delight and titillation of most of the audience, their relationship grows and the two embark on journeys of self-discovery.
Carter-Beane, who also wrote Xanadu and the gloriously camp To Wong Foo, plays a clever game with the story as we belatedly realise we might be watching the film script the agent had always been planning.
My only criticism is on the set, which at times is tedious and repetitive, minimal throughout as it switches from hotel rooms to dining rooms and back.
The cast is completed with Gemma Arterton (Quantom of Solace) who plays Alex’s ‘girlfriend’ and although under-used as a character, she provides some brief moments to absorb the fast-paced script and to consider our own fixation with celebrity culture.
But it’s Tamsin Greig who steals the show and her performance is ample proof of why she is currently one of the UK’s most favoured female comedians. Her ridiculously ambitious character switches from bullying outrage to carefully crafted  manipulation whilst unashamedly exuding the best lines of the play, delivered with glances to the audience that often leave you squirming in your seat.
When asked to pledge a promise, she snaps “My word? You’re asking a whore for her cherry!”
Whilst the scenes with Lloyd and Friend provide some magnificent eye candy, Greig’s performance seals the deal.

The Little Dog Laughed at The Garrick Theatre, London until 10 April 2010 - http://www.garrick-theatre.com/

Author Tom Ambrose reads from and discusses his new book Heroes and Exiles: Gay Icons Through the Ages.

“Demonised by the Church throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, homosexuals became the scapegoats of society, constantly facing exile or a brutal death. In “Heroes to Exiles”, the human cost of this long exile is told through the lives of the most eminent homosexual men and women in history. Some were artists like the wild living Benvenuto Cellini or the repressed Edward Lear. Others were poets such as Thomas Gray, W. H. Auden or novelists such as Henry James and A. J. Symonds.”

Date: Thursday, 25 February 2010

Time: 19:00 – 21:00

Place: Gay’s the Word Bookshop, 66 Marchmont Street,London, United Kingdom, WC1N 1AB

FREE.

All welcome.