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Lord of the Dance

New Theatre, Oxford

The tour of Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games reached Oxford and I decided to have a look at it. I thought I would enjoy it as a diversion, as a spectacle and as a chance to see some impressive Irish dancing – and I was not disappointed in any of these hopes.  It seemed to me there was not quite the same originality and sheer pleasure as in the original Riverdance that I saw years ago; but Michael Flatley has nevertheless created a very exciting and entertaining show.

The story concept – a kind of mix of or homage to Lord of the Rings and Star Wars in appearance and idea – is an ersatz mythic tale of good versus evil.  It is an excuse for some spectacular costumes and sets. It is the most impressive kitsch I have witnessed in some time and succeeds because the kitsch is so sincerely and unselfconsciously achieved. Very good use is made of video and projections. But the glory of the show is the dancing, especially by the men; the centrepiece is a kind of adapted Irish dancing with added upper body movement in the main. At moments the show even put me in mind of Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain.

Dangerous Games captivates by its sheer mixture of camp, its spectacular staging and its vivid choreographic imagination. You have to experience it to appreciate it; and the well-chosen company is extremely well drilled. James Keegan in the lead role that Michael Flatley created originally for himself was stunning and mezmerizing; and  I was just as impressed by Zoltan Papp as the Dark Lord.  Jess Judge is to be commended as the Little Spirit.

The women seemed underused, to me. I was also mildly bothered by the fact that all the women seem to be got up to look like clones of Melania Trump. Why? Is it some obsession of Flatley’s? It doesn’t matter that there isn’t a huge amount of genuine dramatic development. The drama and the development are all in the dancing, which is completely gripping to watch from beginning to end. And stay on during the curtain calls, because that is when you get some of the most imaginative moments of the show. Flatley himself appears only on video, but especially when he dances with himself at the end it is quite fascinating. His absence from the live show is not particularly felt – his dancers are all very fine indeed. The show may not be the classiest or most surprising theatre you will ever see; but you will almost certainly enjoy its energy.

  • Dance Theatre
  • Creator, Producer, Choreographer and Director: Michael Flatley
  • Composer: Gerard Fahy
  • Cast Includes: James Keegan, Gergal Keeney, Matt Smith, Tom Cuningham, Zoltan Papp, Caroline Gray, Jess Judge, Sophie Evans
  • New Theatre, Oxford
  • 24 – 27 January 2017and then touring in the UK and abroad
  • Review by Mel Cooper
  • 25 January 2017

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Canadian-born Mel Cooper first came to the UK to study English Literature at Oxford University and stayed. He was captivated by the culture and history of Britain, which he found to be a welcoming and tolerant country. After working in highly illustrated, non-fiction publishing for over a decade, he founded and edited the magazine Opera Now. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting, a maker of audio shows and arts critic for several airlines, and as one of the team that started Britain’s first commercial classical music radio station, Classic FM, on which he was both a classical music DJ and creator and presenter of shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. Throughout this period, he also lectured in music and literature in London and Oxford and published short stories in Canada. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature. His first novel has just been published as an e-book. The title is City of Dreams. It is the first volume of a projected saga called The Dream Bearers. You can find the Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

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