Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

What a Feeling

Flashdance

Selladoor , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , August-26-17
Flashdance by Selladoor The broadcast division of the National Theatre is a unstoppable force in its own right. The Cumber-Hamlet is to be reshown; that means potential productions of real Shakespeare for audiences outside London will never happen. The advertising for “Follies” is already out in strength and it is not even due in cinemas until November. Stephen Sondheim's magisterial two volumes of memoir-plus-critique stopped short of the rock musical. He just did not get them. A vivacious “Flashdance” with an eighteen-strong dancing cast virtually all under the age of twenty-something is epitome of what the Master did not get.

The difference is straightforward. It is a strand of performance that leans more to gig than theatre in formal terms. That does not diminish it. In truth to be in an audience of many hundred having a great time itself means that I am having a good time. The electric guitar is tremendous and the dancers explode with energy. The title song itself is strong enough to jump out of its era and the best piece of dramatic action is accompanied by Laura Brannigan's “Gloria.” There is so much to make the tour a success. Apart from a pantomime break in December It performs almost continuously until July.

An audience gets thrill, awe and an Everest of charm. What in truth it does not get are the building-blocks of theatre, drama, shape, contour, emotion. So where “Follies” walks the bitter-sweet borderline of age and youth “Flashdance” gallops into a plot that is mainly Billy Elliot, with the class difference soft-smoothed, with a touch of added Cinderella. A dose of “Fame” is in there in the dismay of ambition squashed, the fates of comedian Jimmy and dancer Gloria.

There is a haze of eighties harshness behind it. It is the era when the word “out-sourcing” was coined. A young apprentice (Rhodri Watkins from Briton Ferry) with family to support is downsized but then is not heard of again. He is a plot device to ensure that the hero (a superb Ben Adams) quits the corrupting influence of his family firm. The only older character (Carol Ball) dies but offstage and barely registers. In fact her absence is a spur for Alex to succeed. Structurally the book is dependent on the shape of the film so that the second-half has a lop-sided proportion of action. Plot is made by villainy but Svengali-figure C C (Matt Concannon) features too late.

All of which is not going to dent its ascent and box-office revenue at all because it is not that kind of show. And Joanne Clifton, Hollie-Ann Lowe, Sia Dauda and Demileigh Foster, leads as well as the other company members, are astoundingly winning.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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