Lord of the Dance has been wowing audiences the world over for more than two decades. Created, choreographed and produced by Irish dance sensation, Michael Flatley, this tried and tested music and dance phenomenon leaps into the Bristol Hippodrome on its way around the globe.
There is something overwhelmingly self-congratulatory about Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games – Michael Flatley wants us to know how brilliant he is and how hard he has worked to come so far and, clearly, most of the audience is in agreement as they sit open-mouthed when he appears, larger than life, on the big screen above the set, like a latter-day Celtic God. I must confess that this will never be my sort of thing but, even though Flatley no longer dances live himself, I wanted to take my 10 year old dancer daughter to experience such a well-loved piece on the big stage. Even so, I hadn’t been fully prepared for what I was about to see.
This is a story of Good versus Evil, each easily distinguishable from the other, the costumes making it clear who is who. In fact, costume changes are plentiful, some are religious-like, others fairytale princess, others wannabe raunchy. And there is a lot of Disney cliche – guess which colour hair the devil-like woman has as compared to her good-natured nemesis? At one point the troupe of female dancers appear as Barbie-esque figures, extremely glammed up and stick thin. The men flex their big muscles, to the rapturous delight of the crowd. There is a lot of macho bravado and beating of chests. The Lord of the Dance himself is fawned over by two women. This is pure, unbridled male fantasy.
The set uses impressive computer displays, pyrotechnics, out-there Doctor Who type costumes (the bad men) and a lot of unexpected explosions and dazzling lights. The whole thing reminded me of the best Weston carnival float that you’ve ever seen (you know, one of those ones with Cyborgs and a Muse song) crossed with the production values of an X-Factor Finals that might make the contestant re-enact a Queen concert – big, brash, in your face. Blindingly so. There is also incredible acrobatics, courtesy of the Spirit character. I was reminded of the circus on occasion, of pantomime more than once.
But, surely, I’m getting away from what should be the main point of Dangerous Games? The dance! The dance is, of course, excellent and every member of the cast is undoubtedly highly skilled, choreographed to the best standard. Legs flailing, fast and furious in places, serene in others. Ballet, tap, contemporary. And a little bit of Irish (more, a lot more, of the Irish please). Flatley’s proteges have had top-notch training and this truly comes to the fore when the mirrored sequences happen – when everyone is on stage, co-ordinated. That’s what most of us have come to see and it would be grand if the set, the loud music and the costumes could be toned down so we can enjoy the spectacle of this marvellous talent.
At the end of the show (2 hours 10 minutes including interval), most members of the Hippodrome audience erupt into heartfelt applause, jumping to its feet in a frenzied standing ovation. They were bitten by the Flatley bug, without a doubt. Me, less so.
What did Celeste, aged 10, have to say?:
“They were amazing at dancing!
“Seriously! I wish I could do that! Anyone with me?
“I really like the star of the show, who played The Lord of the Dance. I really liked the flute girl (Spirit)! Also she had amazing flexibility skills.
“The only thing I would change is all the heavy amount of costume design and make-up because you are such good dancers! All I want to see is you dancing!
“Apart from that it was really entertaining and most certainly AMAZING!!!”
See what I mean?
Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is on at Bristol Hippodrome until 30th April