The traditional image of Riverdance consists of a line of dancers, legs kicking with regimental precision, and arms firmly by their sides, but Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is far more elaborate, ambitious and sophisticated in its scope.
The show’s dynamic creator Michael Flatley (not appearing on the night, but certainly there in spirit) is said to have broken the mould of Irish dancing by adding upper body movement and edgy rhythms that defy the traditional approach.
If you’re wondering just how dangerous these dance moves could get, a menacing figure kitted out in metal headgear, who looms out of the darkness in the opening sequence, seems to be channelling a blend of Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games.
The blurb promises “new staging, new costumes and mesmerising choreography”, and delivers on all three. Costumes are set to maximum razzle-dazzle. The lasses are all long legs in short skirts, or clad in figure-hugging black, and when a few bare-chested lads put in an appearance, the whoops from the audience are like The Full Monty revisited.
Thanks to cutting-edge special effects, each scenario boasts a spectacular backdrop, conjuring up Celtic lands of myth and magic, rushing waterfalls, lunar landscapes and molten lava. The staging is varied, imaginative and effective, but at times, the brightly-coloured backgrounds venture into Disney territory, and the constant movement can be distracting. A fleeting glimpse of a unicorn in the distance is enchanting, but see the same creature on a constant loop and the effect begins to lose its magic.
There are times when you feel that “less is more” and that the choreography, rather than the CGI, should be allowed to steal the show: Enthusiastic and energetic, the 40-strong team of super troupers display skill, precision and panache.
The familiar Lord of the Dance tune features prominently, with the role of the Lord divided among three dancers: Matthew Smith, James Keegan and Morgan Comer. Musical arrangement by Gerard Fahy offers many variations of the theme, from the trill of the flute to some toe-tapping tunes on the fiddle. Dangerous Games is belted out in a gutsy style reminiscent of a Bond theme tune.
The interlinking theme centres around the battle between good and evil. A flute, symbolising the creative force of music, is broken in two by the villain, then later restored by the hero. The beauty of nature, shown in aerial shots of the Emerald Isle, is contrasted with the destruction wrought by man: burning forests, rumbling machines and robotic figures marching menacingly onwards in a darkly dystopian vision. If this serves as an environmental message, perhaps the most dangerous game we play is to take the natural world and its resources for granted.
When the noble hero finally faces the steampunk villain in a furious dance-off, those high kicks certainly come in handy, and the balance of nature is finally restored. It’s time for a celebration finale complete with fireworks.
This is a show tailored to the demands of a modern audience used to multi-media experiences, but the expertise of the performers is key, and the allure of the dance, like the Emerald Isle itself, is evergreen.
Review by Angela Lord
Lord of The Dance: Dangerous Games
268-269 Tottenham Court Road, London,
Booking From: 13th March 2015
Booking Until: 5th September 2015