Theatre Review: Napoletango at the London Coliseum

Life is a tango for a motley crew of performers with passion for dance.

As we sipped our pre-show drinks at the bar of the splendidly opulent Coliseum, we found ourselves rubbing shoulders with none other than Sir Bruce Forsyth.

The host of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing was no doubt expecting to see some slick tango footwork in this “Latin Neapolitan Musical”, performed by the Italian company Teatro Eliseo. He probably got more than he bargained for in what proved to be a weird but often wonderful spectacle.

Napoletango launched its international tour in London following acclaimed performances in Naples and Rome and is very difficult to categorise.

Ostensibly, it is the story of a raggle taggle bunch of travelling performers recruited by a dance diva to take the tragic and sensual Argentine Tango from the streets and taverns of Naples into a theatre for the first time - with the dream of making it to Broadway. They are like a noisy circus family, a motley crew of characters who have one thing in common - their raging passion for tango.

It’s not really a musical in the traditional sense as there are hardly any songs and the soundtrack is predominantly electronic. It’s part high drama, but also part comedy and part burlesque, with the 20-strong cast - both men and women - spending much of the time strutting around in their pants and sexy underwear. And all the dialogue is in Italian - with a running translation projected above the stage.

The rich tapestry was striking, provocative, sometimes perplexing but ultimately mesmerising. The action, dense and episodic, demonstrated in kaleidoscopic flashes that tango can express all aspects of human life. At the end, many of the audience were on their feet, joining in with the cast, won over by the philosophy that life is a tango.

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We didn’t get the chance to ask Sir Brucie what he thought of all the steaming passion after the curtain came down. But surely he would have said “Didn’t they do well!”

* Shown at the London Coliseum in St Martin’s Lane, WC2, from August 4-6.