Monday July 3, 2017 @ London Coliseum
Cast: Benjamin Purkiss (alt.), Christina Bennington, Rob Fowler, Sharon Sexton, Anthony Selwyn (u/s)
Ok, so it has taken me four weeks to write this review as I’ve been busy, but maybe also because it’s taken me this long to recover from the unfortunate car-crash that was Bat Out of Hell. Originally conceived as a musical by Jim Steinman, Meat Loaf’s album is put to stage in this post-Apocalyptic something-or-other, well, to be honest, I don’t really know what on earth I was watching half of the time.
To keep this from being completely negative, let’s talk through some positives. First all, the cast were great. Christina Bennington (Raven) is gorgeous and has a killer voice. There were also great turns from Rob Flower and Sharon Sexton as her power-hungry parents Falco and Sloane; they provided much-needed comic relief in an otherwise gloomy premise. The best moment in the show came when a ‘car’ is pushed into the orchestra pit and a few members of the orchestra (they may have been cast playing the orchestra) proceed to climb out with bent and broken instruments, giving the actors on-stage glaring looks before exiting. This fourth-wall-breaking moment had the audience in stitches and was very cleverly done, just a shame the rest of the show did not match up to this one moment. Cast aside, who for the most part are not given enough to do (ensemble in particular) with the material they have been given, I don’t have many positive things to say.
The short of the story follows a group of teenagers who are forever stuck at the age of 18, for some reason I can no longer remember (man, this show was forgettable), then boy-meets-girl and the story follows their love struggle. Raven is mortal but wants to be with Strat (alternate Benjamin Purkiss), her parents and Tink (understudy Anthony Selwyn – who seemed too feeble to be intimidating) who is also in love with Strat, try to get in their way…basically…I think. But honestly, its been four weeks and I’ve already forgotten most of what happened, so let’s not dwell on that too much.
There is so much potential within this show but nothing is executed with precision, art or skill. The set was impressive to look at but so was the set for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and that was a mediocre musical at best. Also, some of the choices made were just strange; mainly in Raven’s bedroom scenes there would be a ‘camerawoman’ standing in the room filming what was happening and this was then projected onto massive screens at the sides of the stage – what was the purpose of this? It was very distracting. And are we meant to acknowledge the camera woman is there or just ignore her? One of many messy choices this show chose to make.
Speaking of messy, the choreography for the most part was great to watch, however it felt so out of place. It did not match the rhythm of the song nor commit anything to the development of the characters and/or story. In many moments Christina Bennington – who was the star of the show for me – was let down by the sloppiest of choices. Her character is just annoying and she spends several scenes literally flopping around the stage like a possessed rag-doll. Also, during her big second act song, bare in mind Bennington is killing it with her amazing vocals, someone made the dumbest decision to put a disco ball in the auditorium and have that going around for most of the song – I found myself wondering why the director had chosen to ruin her big moment in this way, that was after I finished cringing into myself. Speaking of direction, was there any? No, not really.
Granted, if you like the music, which I did, then you will at least enjoy the show for that. Majority of the songs were very impressive and showed of the casts vocal abilities. And the audience lapped up the music like no-one’s business, for example, in the Dress Circle box, two women (who had clearly been to the bar at interval) got up and started energetically dancing during “Dead Ringer for Love” which was hilarious, and again, that scene did nothing for the show and felt completely out of place, but it was entertaining I guess. And that’s the issue I have, I was entertained for two-and-a-half hours, but does that make it an exceptional show? No. I guess it just means I like watching dreadful things happen, perhaps? So if you like that too, go check out Bat Out of Hell, or don’t, either way your life will be no different. Some potential, yet, we are given a rocking mess. Such a shame.
For more stagey goings-on visit my personal blog at stageytheatrelife.wordpress.com. Bat Out of Hell runs in London through August 22.