On a freezing cold weeknight we leapt at the chance to warm our faces in front of some hot Capoeira in Dalston. What we weren't expecting was an adaptation of a greek tragedy, transported to Brazil and brought alive through the undeniably sexy and fascinating martial art dance form. In the original Euripides it is Dionysian rituals that drive women into a frenzy - it's not hard to imagine Capoeira having a similar effect on the ladies.
In Blood: The Bacchae pits corrupt, uptight, white, Catholic Brazilian Chief of Police, Gordilho against poor, favela dwelling, black African-Brazilian, Besouro. Folk hero, Besouro, is believed to be protected by a talisman and blood rituals whereas Gordilho has the privileges of the establishment to protect him, as well as the ebullient arrogance supported by a mighty coke habit. Godilho killed Besouro's mother, yet venerates her memory having fallen in love with her dead body. Besouro seeks revenge on Gordilho and ultimately persuades him to dress in borrowed street clothes and lure him to the favelas to engage with the fascinating combat rituals of Capoeira. He is humiliated. There are bleak consequences all round.
Master Capoeirista, Alexandre Carlao, has choreographed the fantastically hypnotic and agile scenes of combat and the Capoeira band features renowned percussionist, Pedro Lima. Textual high drama aside, the spectacle in the cosy round confines of Arcola's raw space is intimately stunning. All the actors are superb whether wheeling around on their hands, playing traditional music or delivering their contemporary lines, laced with a liberal dose of profanity. Although the pace of the play stutters at times and it's not always 100% clear what's going on, by its conclusion the play has worked, delineating a bitter struggle against repression in an indifferent, brutal world.
In Blood is part of Arcola's Brazilian season. Two other shows also caught our eye: The Last Days of Gilda and Hotel Medea, promising the heat of Brazil with the freshness of new talent and uncompromising drama.
"In Blood" runs till 31 January, 8pm/Sat matinees, £15/10 at Arcola Theatre, Arcola Street, off Kingsland High Road, Dalston. Book tickets online. On Tuesdays, if you're skint, you can take advantage of "pay what you can".