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Vamos Cuba

Birmingham Hippodrome

*****

VAMOS CUBA is a story set within a party backdrop from a country which has seen fast political and cultural changes over the past half-century. This Saddler’s Wells production is a beautiful display of culture in the heat of Havanan life.

The production is essentially an on-stage party, showing the best of Cuba’s song, dance and music, evolving from the 1950s. The show is full of traditional Cuban dance, such as salsa, rumba, cha-cha and reggaeton. The styles are blended into a colourful backdrop of sounds of an upbeat band who provide a constant stream of non-stop party music.

With a beautiful demonstration of Cuban lifestyle and atmosphere, director and choreographer Nilda Guerra provided a fabulous plot that goes hand in hand with the explosive dances. The story is set inside a Cuban airport, where the cast of fourteen wait for a long delayed flight to Miami.

Through amazing choral and individual numbers, we are introduced to the experiences behind each character trying to board the flight, such as the pilot on his first day at work, an airport care-taker and each excited passenger. In the performance of two acts, we see the events unfold as the wait goes on leading to fights, break ups and holiday romance.

The company are amazing story tellers taking us into their world of vivid colour and a ‘take it easy’ lifestyle in the best way they know how. Their language of Caban dance is infecvamos midtious and they create a constant energetic vibe.

Each number is clearly mapped out for us, showing the varied nature of Cuban dance and culture as they bring each dance to life. With the help of Lisandra Ramos and Celia Ledon's wonderfully colourful costume design, each character is strikingly individual, bringing their backgrounds to the holiday experience. The dynamic between male and female is explosive, giving instant sparks and subplots of love and lust, especially between the pilot and air hostess.

As exciting and energetic as this production may seem, we can also see striking political undertones within this production, including the change that Cuba has seen within the past sixty years. The show takes us through two time zones, where the past and present are married together to tell the audience about a Cuba that is known today.

When a photographer shows his pictures from Havana, we are transported to a scene entitled ‘A fantasy of Havana’ in the 1950s, with memories of cabaret and music. A time lapse of a building in Havana is seen in a projection from its derelict structure of today, going back to the bright and impressive new structure in the Fifties.

There is a retro feel to the scene, with beautiful costumes of ladies with enormous feather headdresses and the background of music from the live band that takes us to the era of the past. A swift change of music is seen as the evolution between Havana in the past quickly turns into Havana of today at the airport, with stylish and modern characters.

Adam Wiltshire’s set design and vibrant lighting from Chris Davey inject a fabulous feel of a constant party atmosphere. The stage is vast and open and on either side there are platforms that house the live band of saxophone, trumpet, guitar and percussion - perfect addition to the colourful mood. Singers Geydi Chapman and Maikel Ante act as narrators in song, telling us the story and setting the atmosphere within each scene, an addition which helps make the show extraordinary.

Vamos Cuba has an electric feel, a constant Havanan party and not one to be missed. To 05-11-16.

Elizabeth Halpin

01-11-16 

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