The Typist, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Kam-Ri Dance Theatre
Kerieva McCormick (writer), Kerieva McCormick & Ben Harrison (co-directors), Javier Latorre (choreography), Tim Reid (video design), Colin Grenfell (lighting design).
Raul Prieto, Kerieva McCormick, Pablo Suarez, Andrew Robinson, Mario Caribe, Olayo Jimenez (cast and musicians), Alexei Sayle (narrator).
Running time

Kam-Ri Dance Theatre put on a virtuoso performance of flamenco music and dance, but unfortunately lose the plot, in their story of The Typist.

The Traverse was packed out. And while people shuffled up closely to their neighbours in a bid to fit everyone in, there was already movement on stage. Projected ribbons of bright red curled across pale and flimsy sheets draped along the back wall, reaching out and disappearing only to retrace their path again. On the square, hard wooden floor rested a double bass and a couple of guitars, and to the side was an impressive white piano and a selection of Spanish drums. Into this space strode the company of six flamenco musicians, singers and dancers who poised, ready to tell their tale.

Back in 1937, over 4000 children were evacuated to Britain to escape the Spanish Civil War. Often called the ‘dress rehearsal’ for World War II, this move anticipated the removal of children from major towns and cities in England to places of safety in the British countryside, that would take place only a couple of years later. While this was a culture shock for the children of the UK, they were at least in the same country and speaking the same language. For the children of Spain, there were no such familiarities in which to take comfort. The Typist follows the story of one of these ‘Los Niňos de la Guerra’.

While black and white footage of people boarding boats floated across the background, the voices of several of the ‘Niňos’ – interviewed in London and now in their nineties – could be heard telling snippets of their own experiences. The red ribbons now zigzagged over a projected map, tracing a journey from Bilbao on the northern coast of Spain, across the Bay of Biscay to Southampton and up, through the centre of England, to Liverpool. This child’s journey ended there, and we pick up the story twenty years later when she is working as a typist in a shipping company, feeling the call of her people, her home, back in Spain.

Kerieva McCormick and Raúl Prieto danced with suitable emotional intensity, stamping out complicated rhythms, while the musicians played with an effortless skill. Alexei Sayle, as Kerieva’s foster parent, could be heard narrating parts of the story, encouraging her to go to her people, supporting her all the way. Meanwhile, Olayo Jiménez poured himself into the rise and fall of the distinctive flamenco ‘deep song’, portraying powerful and profound emotion. Kerieva also sang a couple of songs herself, demonstrating her multitude of talents – not just as a performer, but also as the writer and co-director of this piece.

The emotional intensity was gripping and moving, but the disjointed narrative, told through fragments of projections and, at times, barely audible voiceovers, meant that it was impossible to follow Kerieva’s journey. The performance elements of The Typist were passionate, accomplished and powerful, but the story that is begging to be told was frustratingly lost somewhere along the way.

Run now ended