Ben Mortimer writes for Bleeding Cool:
Since watching Batman Live, and indeed at times during the show, I’ve been trying to work out just how to describe it. There’s no music, so it’s certainly not a musical, but it doesn’t feel very much like theatre either*. The best description I can come up with, given that it’s filled with acrobats, magic tricks and pyrotechnics, is a circus, with a (loose) narrative. Regardless of description, it’s thoroughly entertaining.
That’s not to say that it’s faultless. The plot is threadbare, more a sketch than a story; the dialogue veers between funny because it’s bad, funny because it’s been lifted directly from the Burton/Schumacher films, and funny because there’s a character called ‘Dick’. There is also a terribly realised fight sequence early on in the show, between Batman and Catwoman that looks like a bad spoof of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. It’s simply that none of those faults really matter. Just as the show starts to flag (every ten minutes or so) we’re distracted by acrobats, or fireworks, or magic tricks, and suddenly little things like plot, character development, and an inexplicable interval** cease to matter.
More importantly, when Batman Live gets things right, it’s great. Throughout the show there is an animated backdrop (think motion comic) at the rear of the stage. Functioning partly as scenery, and partly as a narrative tool, it’s fantastic, and at times somewhat mesmerising. Similarly the lighting effects throughout are spectacular. When we’re in the Bat Cave the lights feel almost solid, forming walls; earlier on in the show there is a moment where a yellow light chases through the audience, only to be revealed to be the Bat Signal. In each case they excite a visceral thrill.
Then there’s Harley Quinn. Most of the performances in Batman Live are pretty decent, but they’re overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the Manchester Evening News Arena, resulting in the show falling somewhat flat during dialogue heavy sections. The manic energy from The Joker’s lover/sidekick, however is so enthralling that she manages to overcome this in every scene she’s in. From the moment she’s introduced she steals the show, not only providing a measure of comic relief, but also one of the more sympathetic, better written characters in the piece as well. While that has a lot to do with the character, it’s clear that most of this is down to Poppy Tierney’s performance.
Ultimately Batman Live is great fun. The miserablists who believe the Miller/Nolan sad-batman is the be all and end all of the character will probably come out muttering the words ‘travesty’ and ‘abomination’ under their breath, but for the rest of us it’s jolly entertaining. Just try to catch it in one of the smaller venues on the tour.
*It is to theatre what Michael Bay movies are to cinema, except much more entertaining.
**An hour in the show just stops for twenty minutes – yes, it is aimed at families, but given that Pirates of the Carribean 4, Harry Potter and Avatar are all aimed at the same audience, you would imagine a 2:20 minute run time would be fine.
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