AN inflight announcement welcomed the sold out venue to the José Martí airport in Havana on Saturday night and one hour later at curtain call, you could be forgiven for believing that five-time Fringe First winning Director, Toby Gough had taken you for real.
[star rating =5/5]
If I am honest, I had reservations about this show being brought to the Fringe by someone who is not Cuban. How was he going to capture the real magic of Havana’s nights with tourist’s eyes? It was a blessed mistake because in front of me for an hour, I was surprised to feel as if I was back on the Island again.
It was a dance and musical journey through the history of the city celebrating the 500th birthday of Havana.
Havana after Dark is as polemic and fascinating as the reality. It has played home to treasure seeking pirate ships, acted as a playground for presidents, celebrities and the Mafia during the roaring twenties and the cities undeniable charm reflects the wild beating heart of a people oppressed by decades of global sanctions.
This show displays a face that is not the usual repetitive version portrayed only by the best cigars, rum and salsa. Cuba is full of musical people that dance the day away on an island that lacks everything but flavour.
This show was crafted equally for the Havana experts and for those that have seen only pictures of it. At the end, you get an accurate vision of what the capital of Cuba is really made of.
The cast was another accomplishment; the choreography was in the hands of Henry Gual and Yuniet Meneses and the dancers are a mix of the Cuban National Ballet and the dance company Revolución.
The orchestra was a luxury, led by Rolando Luna – former winner of the first prize at the international festival JoJazz, the Cuban ensemble performed themes that went from Latin jazz to the soundtrack of The Greatest showman and Camila Cabello, Gente de Zona and more of the modern latin repertoire.
The singers were Joaquin García and Gisela Lepio, who was also the voice narrating the History of Havana. Gisela had the audience in the palm of her hand and her songs were the most loudly applauded. There were shining moments all over.
The drum solo of José Carlos Sanchez, the whole nostalgic blackout act, the dancer Yeleny Aguirre and her singular energy on stage.
The ballet pair are sensational. Daniel Rodríguez and Barbara Patterson from the Cuban National Ballet are proof of why this school is one of the best worldwide. They showed off their flawless technique and beautiful moves.
At the end of the show, the audience was dancing on stage in a carnival that was the perfect closure.
Outside it was raining, as it is common in this city, inside the Pleasance’s Annie Lennox theatre we were on the pearl of the Antilles on a hot night full of the best music and colour of the Caribbean.