Kam-Ri’s production examining the fate of Esperanza, one of Los Ninos de La Guerra (child refugees of the Spanish Civil War) who escaped to Britain to become the titular typist certainly looks and sounds emotive. Creator Kerieva McCormick dances passionate flamenco with her male partner Raul Prieto, around a traditional palette of red and black. Her typing combines with percussive clapping of the live band, comprising Pablo Suarez, whose fingers appear fly over the piano, guitarist Andrew Robinson, Mario Caribe on double bass and Dalbir Singh Rattan on percussion.
There’s the thunderous, footstomping sensual defiance of love in the face of a brutal regime. McCormick and Prieto entwine, heads thrown back and shoulders proud and stiff, even as Esperanza learns of her father’s death in conflict.
Tim Reid, video designer of recent hit theatre adaptation 1984 provides backdrops like bloodlines which curve like McCormick’s sleek,slinky top line and allegorical symbolism in the form of a heart being torn open.
Yet the characterisation is a little ill defined. It would definitely be nice, not to mention imbuing the piece with more emotional heft, to get more of a sense of Esperanza’s journey,her aspiration and inner life.
Alexei Sayle provides sweet narration as a comforting reassuring replacement father.
However, flamenco is its own storytelling, and is magnificent. The rich phrasing of fluttering hands, clutching at hearts and a simple raised eyebrow in flirtation, as Esperanza finds a map to her lover, say so much in lieu of language.
But it’s the universality of war that pricks the skin. Singer Olayo Jimenez roars and weeps his songs, and in one truly chilling scene is folded in a shroudlike shawl by McCormick as displaced families running for cover and fighter jets are projected onto McCormick. Two generations united in sorrow and hope.
As Esperanza returns to her homeland to confront her demons she is given a gun. The gun does not go off- a tacit anti-war statement in keeping with the humane tone. Although not polemical, the message is made clear- that civilians are the pawns in every war. It is a warning from history, steeped in the eternal vocabulary of dance. The Typist may be flawed, but it is as lucid and affecting statement of intent as the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon or more recently PJ Harvey’s The Words That Maketh Murder. Kam-Ri will surely develop into a vital company.