A Darker Shade of Fado – Nuno Silva: artsdepot, London, 1 May 2014

How far do you go?

Stephanie Dufresne plays hair guitar in A Darker Shade of Fado. Photo by Chris Nash

Necks please! Stephanie Dufresne lights up A Darker Shade of Fado. Photo by Chris Nash

I’m not quite sure how you show a darker side of Fado, a Portugese form of music that pours out from the very deepest wounds of heartbreak and despair, but sadly Nuno Silva’s attempt doesn’t really succeed.

It has some well-worked moments. Dam van Huynh’s choreography is fairly lyrical with the best generally saved for Nuno Silva’s twisting solos although the finest sequence appears right before the interval with a want-you-can’t-reach-you trio that peaks with a powerful spin that locks all three dancers together.

There are some good performances. Silva brings real menace to his mysterious role of Spirit, stretches his limbs to fascinating effect throughout and he can sing a tune when required too. Stephanie Dufresne excels when she struts on stage as her sexy, sultry alter-ego; her entrance for the afore-mentioned trio could make a priest smash a stained-glass window.

It was the unlikely nature of the slow-burning narrative that let the piece down. An Ordinary Joe music instrument maker, played with obsessive attention to detail by Matthew Lackford, bizarrely forgoes cute (and real) Dufresne for sexy (but phantom) Dufresne. He was already way out of league as it was – why would he let her go for something imaginary? And then she tries to win him back. Sort of. And then it ends with her playing matador to his leather-aproned bull.

Furthermore, there was no stage chemistry between the two of them and, while both were multi-talented (Dufresne has a lovely singing voice) their acting skills need some sharpening.

The music was odd too. In itself it was interesting stuff. Sabio Janiak combined electric hums, Dj-ing and live instrumentation to imaginative purpose – the Portishead-like track that opened the second half was a beauty – but its relevance to Fado was often tenuous and never truly captured its melancholic depths. Guy Hoare’s terrific lighting was probably the closest thing the show had to genuine Fado style in it’s reliance on blackness.

The raw, low-key nature of A Darker Shade of Fado should have worked in its favour but it actually needed to show a whole lot more sorrow and genuine tortured emotion in order to hint at the essence of the Fado artform.

A Darker Shade of Fado continues touring England until 6 July 2014. The full schedule and access to tickets can be found here.

Gerard Davis

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