Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Jethro Pope, March 2017
It’s been 20-years since Michael Flatley’s Lord Of The Dance first hit arenas. And whilst the show now has a modern re-versioning (not to mention the added subtitle ‘Dangerous Games’) it seems not much has changed in that time.
A show that has wowed millions around the world, now feels like something that wouldn’t seem out of place at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. As the creator, producer and choreographer of LOTD: Dangerous Games, Flatley has fashioned a show that is part dance spectacle, part sci-fi adventure with sex appeal. It’s not hard to see Flatley’s traditional and, if I dare say, slightly old-fashioned view of the world in everything from the choreography to the costumes.
In this modern LOTD, men are militant and tough and women are pretty and dainty. Oh, and not to mention sexy. Very sexy. Ironically, despite it being set in a futuristic universe, when you’re watching it, it feels like you’re stuck in the past.
In one dance routine, the girl dancers all come on with their (mostly) blonde coiffured hair bouncing lightly on their shoulders wearing simple tunics that their mother’s could have sewn. But these are soon ripped off, leaving the girls performing a raunchy Victoria’s Secret catwalk show-inspired number in their bras.
The main female dancer, Saoirse (Nikita Cassidy) flits around like Pamela Anderson in sequins. And her counterpart, Morrighan the seductress (Mide Ni Bhaoill), is a Lycra-clad dominatrix type who crawls across the stage like a cat. It’s like Flatley’s got his inspiration from PlayBoy magazine.
But not to leave the female audience members out of the fun, the male dancers strip topless after one of their dance routines. For no obvious reason other than to get the wolf-whistling reaction it receives. And there’s more. The ‘good’ male dancers do a topless dance off against an army of dark militia ‘evil’ male dancers. No, it makes no sense to me either. Nor, for that matter, did the Irish dancing cyborgs.
Which brings me to the plot (which is as thin as some of the girls’ outfits). It’s a classic tale of good versus evil. The titular ‘Lord of The Dance’ (James Keegan) must fight and defeat the evil Dark Lord (Tom Cunningham) and his Dark Disciples. Which, as I’m sure you guess, he does. By dancing. The Little Spirit (Jess Judge), an acrobatic, whistle playing omni-presence who appears throughout, adds a running thread to the plot which at times seems lost. It tries to combine the Celtic traditions of Ireland and a Dystopian, robot universe which feels flippantly put together. A better thought-out narrative thread wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The staging is very simple; a permanent two-tier video screen background that changes from a volcanic wasteland (representing the Dark Lord’s domain) to a rainbow-lit meadow and unicorns running free with technical ease. It gives the show an X-Factor feel which, thankfully, doesn’t draw your attention away from the dance routines. Not that anything would. Even when Flatley himself appears on screen before the finale (just to remind you who the real star of the show is).
But Flatley aside, for this show, the current dancers take centre stage. And, as it’s lead, Keegan is a charismatic and crowd pleasing performer and a worthy dancer to fill the role originated by Flatley himself. The main Irish dance routines are the precise display of spine-tingling footwork that we expect from Flatley’s shows. As his nemesis, Cunningham is a hideous, sneering, Star Trek-inspired villain with aggressively impressive dance moves that are an equal match for our noble hero.
To break up the dancing, there is music in the form of songs from Erin The Goddess (Sophie Evans ) and violin music from duo Giada Costenaro Cunningham and Nicole Lonergan. Erin beautifully sings contemporary ballads, apart from the uptempo ‘Dangerous Games’, which sounds like a Eurovision entry.
The finale piece, which is really where the show has been leading up to and the part that supersedes everything, is by far the highlight. Keegan, in lordly fashion, whips up his dancers in to the famous line formation that’s had audiences on their feet in every part of the globe. And Bradford’s audience are no exception. The troupe performs every single foot stomp, tap and kick in perfect unison. They’re a smiling group of highly skilled dancers. You can see from the audience’s reaction that their blood, sweat and broken toes are worth it.
LOTD: Dangerous Games is at times a little too lost in itself. But even the staunchest critic cannot deny the power of the showstopping choreography. It’s probably not since my last visit to the dentist that I’ve had so many shivers down my spine. But, unlike the extraction of teeth, this show will most definitely thrill and entertain you. You’ll be foot tapping all the way to the car.
images: Brian Doherty