María Pagés’ Yo, Carmen, is not simple retelling of Bizet’s well-known opera. Rather, Pagés attempts to give a new perspective on Carmen that is beyond patriarchal norms, based not on male assumptions and fantasies, but on the realities of women’s lives and who they really are.
Pagés, who incredibly directs, choreographs, designs the costumes and dances, has the sort of stage presence that easily fills the 3,000-seat auditorium of the Edinburgh Playhouse. Her choreography, with its feet firmly in the flamenco tradition, is contemporary, bold and direct, and her dancers clear, precise and powerful.
However, despite this, in this vast venue the connection between performers and audience becomes all but lost. The subtleties of the dancers’ movements and expressions, such an important part of flamenco, cannot easily be discerned. Similarly, the admittedly necessary amplification of the musicians, flattens the nuance of the music, a situation that is not helped by poor sound reproduction, and poor balancing of the louder sections.
Furthermore, Pagés’ flamenco-style choreography doesn’t seem work as well when it involves larger groups of dancers. It these situations, the choreography fails to develop interesting relationships between the dancers, but instead simply clones multiple copies of itself. Indeed, the best parts of Yo, Carmen are the solos, which are superb.
And towards the end of the show, Pagés does perform a truly incredible solo. The musicians are finally permitted to emerge from behind their stifling gauze, allowing them to fully interact with her, and at last we are cooking with gas! This is a moment worth waiting for, a moment where everything comes together beautifully. As for the rest of the show, as well done as it is, it is just a little too predictable.