Home » London Theatre Reviews » MALEVO at the Peacock Theatre – Sadler’s Wells | Review

MALEVO at the Peacock Theatre – Sadler’s Wells | Review

Boleadoras feature heavily in Malevo, consisting of cords or ropes with weighty balls attached to the ends of them. The traditional use of boleadoras, or bolas, was to capture animals, apparently by entangling their legs or otherwise making subcutaneous wounds if the balls struck the hunter’s prey with sufficient force. And so it was that this group of men from Argentina swung their balls (ahem), but the balls were instead used as percussion instruments, beating (double ahem) the dance floor with such rapidity that if you looked away for a moment, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was a troupe of dancers doing a tap dance on stage.

Photo credit Malevo.
Photo credit Malevo.

There’s also one heck of a lot of drumming – more beating – with each man using two sticks, one in each hand, banging away on an Argentine drum called ‘bombo legüero’, traditionally made of hollowed tree trunks, and hung low across each man’s body. The ‘legüero’ is a reference to the idea that the drums are so loud they could be heard a ‘league’ away – an Argentine league being even longer than an English league. There were notices at the venue informing patrons the show featured ‘very loud music’, but honestly, I never felt the need to put my fingers in my ears, and neither, as far as I could tell in the darkness of the stalls, did anyone around me.

‘Malevo’ translates, depending on which source you use, as ‘ruffian’, ‘bad-ass’ (as in, tough and intimidating), ‘bully’ or even ‘assassin’. This does, to a significant extent, explain a lot: there’s a fair bit of yelling, and strutting around as though these men were peacocks. At the end of a dance sequence, they tried to look as though they were indifferent to the audience’s applause. There’s no doubting their considerable talents as they perform, perfectly in sync with military precision. Only occasionally do sound, lighting and staging come together to properly spotlight what particular dancers are doing. For the most part, however, even when there’s a solo dancer doing his thing, the production feels like an ensemble performance, and rather predictably, it isn’t long before the one man on stage is joined by others, and then a few more, and then the whole company.

It did not need, frankly, to be ninety minutes long, and when the opening sequence with supersonic movements was done, the show had nowhere to go but (to quote Come From Away), “STFD – slow the f—k down”. Later, having opened with an impressive display of dynamism and exuberance, subsequent dances matched but never exceeded what the audience had already seen. This gave the performance, wonderfully executed as it was, the feeling of being too repetitive. When the same drums and the same boleadoras came out once more for yet another round, this only served to confirm such sentiments.

Having brought so many Argentinian cultural elements into the show, the inclusion of British chart music favourites such as The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint It Black’ and Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ came across as trying too hard to appeal to a London audience. All that bravado made me think of another tune, ‘Macho Man’ by Village People. If the company of Malevo could be plugged into the National Grid, the energy price cap would fall substantially at its next review. Still, it seems odd that the second half of the show had very little that wasn’t already in the first.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

In a blistering and exhilarating take on the traditional Argentine Malambo, Malevo brings its blazing raw talent to the UK for the very first time.

Peacock Theatre
Portugal St,
London WC2A 2HT
31 October – 4 November 2023

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