Review: In Blood: The Bacchae

By John Nathan, January 15, 2009
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Arcola Theatre, London E8

For the Arcola’s latest offering in their Reimagining the Classics series, Frances Viner has reimagined Euripides’s play in sultry 1920s Brazil and threaded into the plot the racial politics of the country’s class system.

At the top is Greg Hicks’s police chief Gordhilho, a descendent of European colonisers. At the bottom is Daon Broni’s Afro-Brazilian Besouro, inspired by the real-life folk hero who ran rings round Brazil’s persecuting police and is cast here as a modern-day Dionysus.

But transposing ancient myth to modern-day South America is not enough for Noah Birksted-Breen’s production. To tell this revenge story, In Blood also deploys the Brazilian martial art of capoeira, a form of dance and combat that involves handstands, contorted crouching and wheeling the body round in impossibly tight circles.

It is a fascinating discipline to watch, especially the artful moves of the production’s most accomplished exponent who glories in the name Carlo Alexandre Teixeira da Silva and who jousts with Hicks’s cocaine-fuelled Gordhilho in a Sao Paulo street fight.

The physicality of the show serves almost to distract from the weaknesses in the plotting. The result is a production strong on mood and atmosphere, but one that lacks dramatic punch.

(Tel: 020 7503 1646)

    Last updated: 9:39am, January 15 2009