If you like your Dark Knight camp and gothic, this exciting, bat-shaped show is for you
Batman Live is a spectacle 72 years and £7.5million in the making. The arena show from the creators of the similarly lavish Walking with Dinosaurs and Mamma Mia! brings Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s legendary superhero to the stage for the first time. And the crowd-pleasing extravaganza neatly sidesteps the fate that befell its closest rival, the ill-judged Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
The joint enterprise between DC Comics, Warner Bros and Water Lane Productions wraps up its stormingly successful UK and Irish tour in Belfast. Opening night is packed. Though, to be fair, much of the floor space is taken up by the enormous stage, a vaguely bat-shaped monstrosity that extends into the audience. At various points, the action spills off into the aisles, creating a truly immersive experience for punters in the expensive seats.
For those of us with a more panoramic vantage point, the view is astounding. Clearly, no expense has been spared in creating Gotham City’s locales – Wayne Manor, the Batcave, Haley’s Circus, the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge, Arkham Asylum and so on. Miniature buildings and props give the cast something to play with, while an interactive video wall – again, bat-shaped – provides added, enhanced locations. It’s all done quite brilliantly.
The trickiest thing about Batman Live is really how to describe it. It’s not quite a circus, though there are acrobats, clowns and stunt performers. It’s not quite a play, though there is a compelling storyline and fine acting from classically trained thesps. And it’s not quite a musical, though there is a stirring, cinematic score. In truth, it’s a unique blend of all of these, with a dollop of Kiss-style arena rock show thrown in.
Tonally, if you’re looking for existential brooding along the lines of the Christopher Nolan movies, this is probably not the event for you. Batman Live plonks itself unashamedly somewhere between the camp of the 1960s TV series and the gothic splendour of the Tim Burton films. The DayGlo Knight, if you will.
Mark Frost’s Joker is an amalgamation of Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s interpretations, spitting nihilistic witticisms as he fires a Tommy gun. Frost puts his own spin on the character, too, not least by giving him an English accent. Unsurprisingly, the Clown Prince of Crime very nearly steals the show, though Nick Court’s stoic Batman also gets huge cheers from the lively Belfast crowd every time he comes swooping from the ceiling.
Elsewhere, there are expertly choreographed fight scenes, Emma Clifford’s leather-clad Catwoman and a slick, black Batmobile that would have Jeremy Clarkson drooling. If there are any quibbles it’s that Batman takes his time appearing in the exposition-heavy first half, but after Act II has bashed you over the head with every trick in the (comic) book you’ll be wondering what took them seven decades to get this exciting, inspiring show on the road.
Batman Live is at the Odyssey Arena until Saturday October 8