Archive for the ‘Batman: Batman Live: Stage: Manchester: superhero: comics: DC’ Tag

Batman Live   1 comment

Batman Live

The cast of Batman Live

I went to a stage show today, but this one was a bit different from the norm.  It’s “Batman Live”, which is currently touring the country.  It’s showing at the MEN Arena in Manchester from 20-24 July, but a friend of mine acquired two free tickets for today’s dress rehearsal.  I have to say that I was pretty impressed with it.

If you’re not familiar with the Arena, it’s a pretty fair sized venue.  Apart from the usual rock and pop concerts etc, it also used to play host to ice hockey games – I’m not sure if it still does or not.  There must have been plenty of those free tickets in ciculation, because the event was pretty well-attended.  I’d say the available seating was about two-thirds taken, bearing in mind that the circle seats weren’t used for the dress rehearsal (I expect they will be for the main shows, but I don’t know for sure).  The stage was surrounded on three sides – we were sat directly in front, so had a pretty good view.

The stage was really well put together.  As it was first set up, it contained a set of miniature buildings representing Gotham City, and an image of the skyline was also projected onto a bat-shaped screen at the back.  That screen was a vital part of the play.  The props on the set itself were moved around according to what scene was being played, and tended towards simplicity.  But the projection screen filled in the background and helped draw the audience into the action.

The story itself gives a brief synopsis of the events leading to Bruce Wayne becoming Batman – coming home from a cinema showing of Zorro (a good touch this, as Zorro is supposed to have been one of Batman’s influences), Bruce Wayne sees his parents gunned down by a mugger and swears revenge.  The main part of the story starts years later, with Bruce Wayne and his friend Commissioner Gordon attending a circus where Dick Grayson and his parents are performing as trapeze artists.  When Dick’s father refuses to pay off a protection racketeer, the trapeze is sabotaged and both Dick’s parents are killed.  Dick Grayson swears revenge and seeks to emulate his hero Batman.  Instead, he gets taken into the care of Bruce Wayne, who he thinks is a worthless playboy.

The story then follows Batman’s hunt for the protection racketeer, which in turn brings him into conflict with most of his regular rogue’s gallery of enemies – namely Catwoman, Two Face, the Penguin, the Riddler, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and the Joker!  Having said that, the Joker’s the main antagonist in this story, dominating every scene he’s in.  Most of the others are very much supporting characters.  Pretty soon the Joker and his gang have taken over the circus and are holding Dick hostage.  Dick’s rescued by Batman, who ends up confiding his identity.  Realising tha Dick is not going to give up his quest for revenge, Batman reluctantly agrees to train him as his sidekick, with the help of his uniquely talented butler Alfred.

The show builds up to a climactic battle in Arkham Asylum, which has been taken over by the inmates – Joker and co.  I won’t give away the ending, but if you’re familiar with the characters you can probably guess anyway.  It’s still fun.

This is a really impressive show visually.  I’ve mentioned the projection screen at the back of the set – this shows a combination of computer-generated animations (as in when the Batmobile is racing through the streets of Gotham), virtual sets (the inside of the circus, Wayne Mansion etc), and pages from comics to illustrate scenes that just couldn’t be shown on the stage (the Graysons falling to their deaths) etc.  The music itself was also well done, an orchestral score reminiscent of the Tim Burton films and the animated series of a few years ago.

Most impressive was the athleticism of the cast.  Because of the prominence of the Joker in this story, and the circus setting, there was a lot of circus-type action – tumblers, jugglers, a trapeze act, even a couple of magic tricks.  It was all very well done.  The costumes were also good, except that Batman’s costume was obviously modelled to a certain extent on the one in the 80s Batman films – all rubber and padding, it must have been as hot as Hell in there, as well as restricting.  This hurt some of the fight scenes, I think, as Batman’s range of movement was severely limited.  The guy’s supposed to be a top-class street fighter – logically he’d wear an outfit that gave him the maximum freedom of movement, but he might as well have been wearing a suit of armour.  This became particularly obvious in the big battle finale when Robin and Catwoman were kicking the **** out of most of the rest of the cast (using fairly authentic martial arts methods), but all Batman could do was deliver the odd backfist or straight punch.  Batman needs to be seen to be good at duffing up villains.  The director should have given this issue more thought.  This lack of mobility on Batman’s part was possibly one of the causes of the interruption that occured towards the end of the play.  During a melee scene, the Batman actor appeared to have hurt his leg – probably twisted his ankle or banged his knee, something of that nature.  Whatever happened, the play was brought to a stop for a few minutes while the actor was taken backstage and presumably his leg was looked at.  After a few minutes, an announcement went out that he’d be back on shortly.  You’d think the audience would have shown some patience, but some people started doing the slow handclap – I hate that kind of behaviour, it lacks consideration for the cast, who were involved in some fairly dangerous stunts. 

Anyway, Batman appeared back on stage after maybe ten minutes (at the most) and the show continued to a triumphant conclusion.  Of course I can’t be absolutely certain that it was the same guy playing Batman at the end – being as he was wearing a mask, he could have been his understudy for all I know.  I hope the actor’s alright though.  As I said, there’s a lot of stuntwork in this play, people dangling from wires, stage fighting, acrobatics etc – plenty of chances for actors to get hurt.

Overall though, it was a pretty good night out, and all we spent was £2 on car parking.  Both the kids and the adults in the audience seemed to enjoy it.  If you can afford a ticket, or get offered a free one you probably will too.  See it if you get the chance.