By BRUCE DENNILL
Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games / Directed by Michael Flatley / Teatro, Montecasino
It’s no good either trying to avoid the monstrous ego of Michael Flatley when going to watch Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games. It’s all over ther production, from his surname above the title on the poster and the programme to his likeness plastered all over the merchandise to his appearance via video – the audiovisual aspects of the staging are impressive – at the beginning of the show, alongside his young son, whose name is Michael St James Flatley, and alone (but in triplicate) at the end of the show. There’s also a montage of material from the 20 years over which Lord Of The Dance has been in existence, with footage of Flatley himself the most prominent element. Additionally, inside the programme, audiences are given a tour of Flatley’s wardrobe. Just because.
In the presence of such exalted arrogance, it is comforting to note that Flatley has and continues to deliver at the level he claims to operate. He appeared in some performances on this run and generated good feedback for his performances, and with Dangerous Games, he has ensured that an artform that exploded into the mainstream partly because of its novelty value (Irish dance was not a phenomenon well-known internationally) has maintained its appeal by updating the way it is presented. And more importantly, maintaining the quality of the dancing.
There have been other variations of the basic formula, with Feet Of Flames – based around Flatley’s solo of that name and featuring new staging ideas and Celtic Tiger, an imagining of the Irish people’s journey through history, being two previous updates of the Lord Of The Dance.
Dangerous Games adds a bit of science fiction and futuristic visuals to the mix, as well as upping the sex appeal somewhat. The story is a reason for a number of costumes and audiovisual effects and very little more. Essentially, there’s a good guy, a bad guy, a temptress and a narrator type who looks a bit like a fish (plus peripheral characters). There’s some happy scenes and some scenes featuring a touch of aggression. Very church holiday club, or Form 4 Drama practical. Simple to the point of being simplistic.
Inside this guileless framework, the real strengths of the production are allowed all the room they need to astound and energise audiences. Despite the very rare technical hitch (a click on the soundtrack up front and a slightly late musical cue in the encore), the dancers – however many of them there are onstage – are always perfectly in sync. When they’re tapping, the steps are thrillingly amplified. It’s difficult to determine how it’s done in technical terms (are there microphones under the elevated mats on which they dance; are they dancing to a track?) but it’s not easy to cynically consider these questions for too long, as however they’re achieving it, they’re doing so with mind-boggling prowess.
The cast are all beautiful people, taut-muscled athletes all, and the plot calls for a number of outfits that unashamedly show off these physical attributes. As such, Dangerous Games is certainly some distance away from the relatively wholesome cultural presentation of the original presentation, though it’s never even vaguely smutty. Chauvinistic? To a degree, yes – but as mentioned, the story around which the dancing takes place is unsophisticated, and ironing out issues as complex as patriarchy and reactions to it in such a context could not have been done to any satisfying degree.
Ultimately, Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games entertains. It’s packed with energy, vigour, rhythm and talent, and the weaker parts of the formula are relegated to the periphery. You should go for the dancers and the dancing, and provided you do, you will love the show.