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Ham and Passion review at London’s Blue Elephant Theatre – ‘extreme passion and florid sexuality’

Azzurra Ardovini in Ham and Passion. Photo: Maria Falconer

It is not often that you see a drag queen Virgin Mary in an intimate duet with a girl posing as a man. Or a leg of iberico ham employed as a phallic symbol with the potency of a howitzer. Clearly UK-based Spanish choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra shares a similar sense of mischief to filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, particularly in the fluid nature of male and female sexuality.

If Phil Sanger’s murderous drag queen in his opening solo is the most clearly defined character, wielding a knife and breaking down in a welter of self-immolating passion and grief, then the shenanigans that follow are no less entertaining for their enigmatic nature.

A variation on the Cocteau/Petit ballet Le Jeune Homme et La Mort, Young Man! plays transgender tricks in a series of eruptive and violent sub/dom altercations between a bohemian girl and her androgynous nemesis. Phallic symbols litter the stage, from half-chewed chorizos to bananas, heroin-loaded syringes and the ever-present iberico ham that is itself a character throughout the evening.

If the final work tilts into Ken Russell comic blasphemy, it is marked by the seemingly irreconcilable differences between Catholic dogma and reckless, writhing passion which concludes in an orgiastic menage a trois with Our Lady. Simply but effectively dressed and costumed – the skull motorcycle helmet is exemplary – and smartly lit throughout, it oozes a dark and twisted eroticism heavily laced with machismo-skewering humour.

Verdict
Extreme passion and florid sexuality run amok in a triple bill of transgressive Spanish dance

Production

Production
Ham and Passion
Venue
Blue Elephant Theatre
City
London
Starts
October 14, 2015
Ends
October 15, 2015, then touring until February 26, 2016
Composer
Manuel de Falla, Lolita Sevilla, Los Brincos, Lucho Gatica, Marife de Triana, Sara Montiel
Choreographer
Carlos Pons Guerra
Design
Lewis Edwards
Set
Ryan Dawson Laight
Lighting
Barnaby Booth
Costume
Ryan Dawson Laight
Technical
Luke Wilson, Clive Wilkinson (sound editing/arrangement)
Cast includes
Phil Sanger, Azzurra Ardovini, Marivi Da Silva
Producer
Sarah Shead, Spin Arts Management, DeNada Dance Theatre
Running time
2hrs