I just got back from watching Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games at the London Palladium. I treated myself to a ticket because, hey, I felt like it, and headed up there this afternoon to go see a show that’s had a fairly major impact on my life over the last five years. Unfortunately, my review of it got really long, so I’m splitting it into two posts just to save your eyesight.
This is part one: in which Miriam summarises the ‘plot’ of the show in a highly irreverent manner while making comments about the costumes and things. Although first I should probably tell you: this is not tradition. This is not a show about folklore. This is full on cyberpunk Lord of the Dance, with glowing cybernetics, a cyborg Dark Lord, and a general sci-fi theme, complete with projections of space ships on the back wall during a couple of numbers. So just bear that in mind while you read this plot through.
The programme informed me that the story of the Lord of the Dance originates from the Little Spirit’s dreams. A lot makes sense that way. I mean, it’s the only way you get people who fight with dance and all of those things, but man, the Little Spirit is smoking something wacky. Let’s take a look at what I can recall of the show’s plot.
It starts with a massive clock projection, featuring video footage of Michael Flatley and a kid who I assume was his son. The programme calls this Father Time, and hey, pretty graphics, but I’m not sure entirely what it’s supposed to symbolise. It’s kind of an intro, because then it goes into projections of clips from various Lord of the Dance shows over time with Flatley talking about how nothing is impossible and you should follow your dreams. Oh look, dreams — here comes the Little Spirit.
She’s a cute little thing, even if her costume makes her look slightly like one of the fish-like aliens from Doctor Who. It’s not as sparkly as the ones I saw in promo pictures, so maybe they tone it down for the matinee so that she doesn’t have to get quite so much glitter everywhere. She’s actually played by a gymnast, hence a variety of mind-boggling contortions that are broken off by the Dark Lord breaking into her dreams and telling her that the Lord she loves is dead and that everything’s a nightmare now.
Ooh, scary. Well, it would be, if the graphics of his face projected on the back wall weren’t quite so melodramatic in an astonishingly camp way. As for the maniacal laughter … come on, villains, the laughter is always your downfall. But we get the idea. Something bad’s gonna happen.
Fortunately, not for a while. Cry of the Celts, a familiar pattern of dancing starting with soft shoe from the ladies and then going into hard shoe after the Lord makes his appearance, was made unfamiliar by the new music very different from the soundtrack I’d practically memorised a few years ago, but the opening section of Act 1 is very much about happiness and dancing and everything’s wonderful. There’s even a unicorn wandering among the flowers of the back wall’s projection. No, seriously. A unicorn. I … mostly ignored the projected graphics unless they were super interesting, because they were weird.
But everything changes in Dark Disciples. Ooh, now we’re getting some action. Formerly known as Warriors, these guys are hardcore and trained to follow their evil leader. Okay, so they’d be slightly more intimidating if their uniforms didn’t make them look like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but you can’t have everything. It’s true the skull-like visors of their helmets are pretty creepy. And the Dark Lord himself is a cyborg with any number of spikes coming out of his shoulders and some really awesome makeup on the side of his face that isn’t covered in electronics. Creepy.
They dance around to prove that hey, they can intimidate in formation, and once they’re gone we get an appearance from Morrighan the Seductress. I applaud their decision not to call this number ‘Gypsy’ anymore, but it’s definitely still coded towards that stereotype in the style of music and dance. On the whole, though, the number resembles the love child of Irish dance and burlesque, and the Morrighan’s costume is awesome — a fairly punk rock jacket with studs on the shoulder over a red vinyl catsuit and corset. Pretty radical.
Strings of Fire comes next, a fiddle duet that’s remained almost unchanged since earlier productions, with the same tunes played by two glamorous violinists in short, sparkly dresses.
And then comes Saoirse. Now, she’s the Lord’s true love and all that, but she’s not above a bit of posturing. “You think you’re slutty?” she’s saying to the Morrighan, as they dance around each other while Saoirse’s dancers perform an elegant number in the background. “Hey look, we can take all our clothes off too!” And then they dance in their underwear. Formerly known as ‘Breakout’, Freedom seemed weird to me without the music I’m used to hearing, but it still brought a massive grin to my face.
Not to be outdone by all these formations, the Lord then brings in his Chieftains, who counter the earlier workout routine of the Dark Disciples and prove that they, too, can look badass in tight t-shirts. And Act 1 ends with the familiar number Lord of the Dance, where the costumes are stunning and very similar to the old ones.
Act 2 starts out pretty weirdly, and the cyberpunk theme’s coming through strong. The first act is called Robojig, but honestly, I was pretty sure it was a reel. Maybe I miscounted the beats. Anyway, this was a hardshoe dance from dancers in full-on robot costumes. Riverdance meets Pacific Rim, not even kidding you. It was a slightly absurd spectacle, because in order to dance their legs had far less in the way of robotics, making it a very top-heavy costume. But hey, it was rad.
Kind of hard to tell if we were supposed to like these guys, so fortunately the Little Spirit ran on and hugged them, proving to us that they’re the good guys. Evidently, the Lord decided the only way to fight Cyborg Dark Lord and his Turtle Disciples was to build robots or something. I think it was here that there was another number, an energetic but apparently plotless diversion.
The Spirit dances around for a while and is generally adorable, and then… oh no! She’s caught by the Dark Disciples again, who take her whistle from her and, after tormenting her for a bit, snap it in half. Alas! She’s beginning to despair of escaping their spiral, but the Lord comes in and rescues her.
Then there’s a dance-off between the two groups of dancers, and the Dark Lord is scared off for a bit. I think it’s round about now that the Lord repairs the Spirit’s whistle, too, but that might come later.
Now it’s time for the Lord to prove that you shouldn’t make out with girls in catsuits. But hey, the ones in crop tops and short skirts are fine. After dancing with his true love Saoirse, they’re interrupted by the punk Morrighan and her black-and-red hair, who pulls him away from the other girl and makes out with him, taking the opportunity to steal the belt that says lord of the dance on it and evidently holds his power or something. I don’t know, that bit’s always been vague. She’s apparently working for Cyborg Dude, and she gives him the belt, which he thinks is a great accessory to his robotic torso.
It looks like the world’s going to go to pot. The Morrighan and the Dark Disciples dance around while a red matrix of constantly changing letters is projected behind and in front (using the gauzy screen thing) of them. Technology, hacking, the roots of this cyborg evil… they’re clear in this number, which is clearly coded to show the evils of electronics taking over everything. Even if the Lord does have robot followers. Let’s just overlook them for now.
And it gets worse! The Lord is captured by the Dark Disciples who torment him before throwing him into fire / exploding him / making him disappear down a trapdoor with awesome pyrotechnics that, being in the front row, I could actually feel making my face warm. Oh no, he’s dead! The Dark Lord does a bit of posturing, decides he’s won, and there are flames across all the projection screens. Yay, we’re all burning to death.
But wait — the Lord’s not that easy to kill. His robotic followers sweep the Disciples off the stage and they’re powerless to resist, and then he turns up, now in leather trousers, and they have a bit of a fight. After some high kicks to the face, it looks like the Lord’s defeated, but the Spirit plays his theme on the whistle and it gives him strength to rip off his shirt and face his Cyborg enemy. Because apparently robots aren’t enough. You need shirtless guys in leather. Honestly, dude, what were you thinking? Shirtless + leather is clearly the way to go here.
(Throughout the entire show, the good guys wear considerably less clothing than the bad guys. Lots of shirtless Chieftain action. Lots of it. They have good muscles. It’s pretty inspiring, if you like that kind of thing.)
There’s some more dance-fighting, and predictably, the Dark Lord is defeated by some stunning high kicks and leaps from the Lord who banishes him in an explosion of pyrotechnics down the trapdoor to the netherworld of under the stage. The Lord’s followers then come along for the party and they have a bit of a dance, before taking their bows and appearing to leave the stage. “No!” cries the audience. “Don’t go!” But the screen at the front goes down. Is it the end?
Nope, it’s time for another projection of Michael Flatley, this time actually dancing. Apparently at some performances he’s actually there, but I was at a matinee, and hey, you get what you pay for. So we got a projection. But I’ve seen him dance live before and yeah, it’s pretty rad, but I don’t fancy getting rush hour trains just to see it again. After that, the musicians reappear, as do the dancers, for a final number.
And then it’s the end. Lessons learned? Dance is a good way of fighting, punks in catsuits will steal your belts and consign you to fiery hell, and pyrotechnics solve everything.
Tune in for my next post in about twenty minutes’ time, in which I’ll explore more what I liked and didn’t like about this production of one of my favourite shows. :)