The Show Must Go On Is Witty And Joyful

Lise Smith
By Lise Smith Last edited 43 months ago
The Show Must Go On Is Witty And Joyful ★★★★☆ 4

The Show Must Go On by Jerome Bel. Photo by Riccardo Musacchio & Flavio Ianniello

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

"This is avant-garde", whispered my husband through a loud burst of Let The Sunshine In from Hair. "If he doesn't come on stage, and the lights stay down for the whole thing, I will applaud."

Maverick French choreographer and playful provocateur Jérôme Bel is indeed avant-garde, but not quite to that extent: the lights stayed down for just 14 minutes. When the lights finally come up, the stage remains bare for another five; and when the cast of 22 professional and non-professional dancers finally arrives, they stand and eyeball the audience for the duration of another song.

Anyone hoping to see a virtusoso display of grands jetés and tours en l'air is likely to be sorely disappointed, but anyone looking for accessible, occasionally daft entertainment will find plenty to enjoy here. The Show Must Go On takes gentle liberties with audience expectations towards dance theatre, and in the process creates a joyful, singalong spectacle that's hard to categorise.

The core of the show is a series of hilariously over-literal interpretations of some 20 pop songs, played live by a technical operator seated at the foot of the stage. There are bursts of comical dad-dancing to Bowie's Let's Dance; furious shaking of objects and body parts to Reel 2 Reel's Move It; and a great visual moment that I won't spoil to My Heart Will Go On. There are audio jokes too: most of The Sound of Silence is muted (and, for obvious reasons, performed in the dark). Before the show is out, the audience is singing along lustily to the classic-pop soundtrack; The Show Must Go On is one of the most genuinely feel-good performances we've attended in a long time.

Candoco, Britain's best-known company for disabled and non-disabled dancers, has taken a risk by staging a piece the choreographer himself defines as "non-dance", but it's one that clearly paid off given the warmth of the audience response. It's avant-garde, but not as we fear it, and on a gloomy March evening The Show Must Go On really does let the sunshine in.

Londonist saw this show on a complimentary review ticket.

Last Updated 22 March 2015