(From the current production, seen at the Evening performance on 5th May
Just a quick update to note that the show is as crazy as ever, but also that
bit smoother, slicker and sitting just fine on the Dominion stage (with a set
creeping out over the orchestra and around the boxes too). A few rough edges -
and one pre-show projection - have gone, but the rest remains a joyous rock out
The four leads are at a new peak. Strat and Raven (Polec /
Bennington) have moved things to a whole new level of trust, their relationship
deeper and more credible than ever. Raven's parents Falco and Slone (Fowler /
Sexton) have settled into a perfect "Jack and Vera" routine, strong love keeping
them together even as the verbal and physical missiles fly... they are one
hilarious double-act, relaxed by constant repetition into something unmissable.
Also unmissable are some fabulous vocals from Danielle Steers (Zahara), whose
voice is even richer than before. Wayne Robinson (Jagwire) is another to note
both acting and vocally, and Alex Thomas-Smith (Tink) brings a new and quite
moving vulnerability to the role. The supporting cast are a blur of movement, a
cloudburst of song and colour, each always doing something (watch for the
brilliant 'Lesbian Proposal' scene stage left at one point when Strat and Raven
The end of the last monkey opinion said that it could go for the fifth star -
a year on, the monkey is delighted to upgrade it for sure.
This Bat is here to stay, with any luck. Leave your cave and see it while you
(From the 2017 London Coliseum run - seen at the performance on 13th June
2017). Some actors have now left the cast.
Once upon a time, around 20 years ago now, a show called “Grease,” and a show
called “Cats” probably met on a street called “Broadway.” In a short time, they
decided to get married. They gave each other a “special cuddle” and, well, 18
years later this is the result.
And I’m not really joking.
It’s 2100, and an accident has left a group kids underground in the big city,
stuck permanently at that age. “Peter Pan” style there’s “the boy who never grew
up,” Strat (Andrew Polec) and sidekick Tink (Aran Macrae) to head up this gang.
Above, in Falco Tower, Strat’s obsession Raven (Christina Bennington) is about
to reach her real 18th Birthday with warring parents dictator Falco (Rob Fowler)
determined to keep her out of Strat’s reach, and rockin’ wife Sloane (Sharon
Sexton) keeping herself firmly in both camps.
Like “Grease” this is full of that special energy only those who are 18 forever
could have, plus all the angst that goes with it. Like “Cats,” this a wafer-thin
plot which holds strong and true for the most part, across almost three hours,
as a hugely talented ensemble play on a stonkingly clever Jon Bausor set. A
guitar fret is a tower block, there’s plenty of projection work from Finn Ross
that brings it all to life and also one of the funniest “fourth wall breaking”
visual jokes the monkey has seen in years.
To get the faults out of the way, the second half could do with a little more
plot – except that to actually cut scenes would mean losing some terrific songs
and great dance numbers. That one is a bit of an insoluble. There is a fair
amount of strong language too, not all of it required. On the other hand, the
fairly racy material renders the show unsuitable for under 14s anyway, so, leave
it in. Oh, and one quip was filthy, but hilarious, anyway.
Back to the great stuff.
There’s enough talented eye-candy to satisfy all. Mr Polec and Miss Bennington
are sufficient not only to tickle the fancy, but massively gifted singers and
dancers too, with strong enough acting skills to get us invested in their
characters even when the plot veers a little unsteadily. Both their solo vocals
are show-stoppers and they truly drive the tribal aspect in the big numbers
involving equally accomplished fellow ensemble members. Aran Macrae in
particular deserves a note as Tink, as does Danielle Steers as tribal
wise-person Zahara in a pivotal supporting role.
Excellent work too from Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton, particularly as they
re-live their youth and later as they reveal very different aspects of their
characters – again finding depth where none really exists in the script.
If, like me, you only really know “Bat Out of Hell” – given a terrific explosive
treatment here – and “Anything For Love,” don’t worry. The rest of the songs,
“Heaven Can Wait,” “You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth,” “Paradise by the
Dashboard Light,” “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and more (annoyingly, the
programme doesn’t list them, and I’m not a big enough fan to instantly know) all
land as if written for the theatre in the first place. Better still, though I
used earplugs, for most they are at a volume where words are clear and the bass
is exciting enough to shake the audience “just for the hell of it.”
Put simply, a show that has even me “up and dancing” at the end has to have
something special. It’s “Batty As Hell,” true – insubstantial on the story, but
so high-energy, with a gloriously fun cast doing amazing things with their
talent that it’s pretty much irresistible for anyone seeking a hard-rocking
night out. Interestingly, during the interval this middle aged conservative
bloke happened to get chatting to a much facially-pierced, crop-cut late teenage
lady. We were both as hyped as each other on the show, and both enjoyed our
brief and excited conversation, which I think says it all. It crosses the
barriers and makes everyone’s world just that bit better.
Easy 4 stars for now, and if they sorted out the second half, would have been 5.