Review of Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games
Before I lay in to this shoddy piece of drivel I think it is only fair to report that the audience all around me seemed to love it. This was my first River Dance experience and there’s no doubt its supporters seem besotted. On every side older ladies were cheering, cooing and rising to their feet at any opportunity. Aside from the lady in front who was worried about catching the last bus back to Wolverhampton, and all credit to the front of house guy who took time to decipher the timetable, all seemed enraptured.
As to why this tat would inspire such love and devotion is completely beyond me. It all seemed fake to the point of insult. Cheap as chips the whole thing is backed by ghastly projections of unicorns and waterfalls, flickering flames etc. reminiscent of some early, lurid, animated screen saver. In front of this, on what is essentially an empty stage, a series of underwhelming variety acts happen, loosely sewn together by some hokum about a battle for good and evil.
At some performances (check the schedule) there’s Nadine Coyle, formally of girl band Girls Aloud, belting cruise ship style vocals, in shiny evening-wear, in front of the nodding unicorn projection. There’s skipping interchangeable beauties like some Celtic wet dream, drained of personality by bad wigs (blonde indicated they were on the side of good, brunette a force of evil) Two play the fiddle, at other times a “sprite” mimed playing a penny whistle.
Prominent amongst all this are of course dance displays, based on traditional Irish steps, where ranks of robotic young dancers, devoid of any personality thanks to matching costume, move their legs very quickly, striking the floor in rhythm. The clatter this makes, the growing intensity of which induces such euphoria amongst the faithful, seems to be blatantly recorded on the backing tracks.
So, tacky fake scenery, bad lighting, bland recorded musicians, and fake glorified tap dance. What is there to admire?
Presiding over it all is a character called The Lord of the Dance. In the past this has been played by the phenomenon’s creator Michael Flatley and he still appears at certain times. Now he’s getting on a bit he’s not in every show so, again, check the schedule carefully if you want to see him. However he always makes a virtual appearance as a projection at the top of every performance. The ladies around me got a little confused by this, gasping at what they imagined at first was the man himself, then whispering in puzzlement as it dawned on them this was the evening’s first fakery.
Fear not, ladies, Flatley has groomed three Aryan youths (remember, blonde is good) to alternately replicate his former youthful performances. You’ll never hear any complaints from me about watching beautiful young men working up a sweat in dance routines but I just wish some personality was allowed to shine through. These boys are not required to make the part their own just replicate our Lord in duplicated productions around the globe to satisfy demand for this dollop of fake Irish sentiment.
The cash must pour in as the producers have shaved every cost to a minimum by utilising projections and backing tracks instead of scenery and an orchestra. Even the thrill of experiencing dance live has been sapped from the Flatley experience; you’ll always get a perfect performance because if the cast miss a few steps the backing track will continue rattling out the sound of their tapping, regardless.
The shameless cynicism of this slick, cost-effective, emptiness was hammered home for me the following night when I went to see the Australian burlesque show BRIEFS: THE SECOND COMING at the Southbank centre. A troop of extraordinary, beautiful, highly individual performers also stage a series of variety acts. The audience sit feet away as they perform breathtaking, sexy, funny, shocking feats of daring comedy and acrobatics. No projected scenery, just the guys enhanced by beautiful, simple lighting and gorgeous witty costumes or their own ripped nakedness. It doesn’t pretend to be saying something profound abut good and evil, it just aims to amaze you, push your boundaries and make you laugh. It succeeds on all levels.
A top price ticket to Flatley’s soulless assembly-line fakery can cost up to 4 times more than a close encounter with this hilarious entertainment. Unless you a die-hard River Dance fan I urge you, do yourself a favour and choose the cheaper option.