Bat Out of Hell, Dominion Theatre, London — a total blast
By Sarah Hemming
★★★★ (4 stars)
Forget subtlety, depth and even logic: just surrender to the sheer pounding energy of the production
Never mind offering your throat to the wolf on a hot summer night; how about a sweltering evening in April? Bat Out of Hell opened at the Dominion Theatre to unseasonably high temperatures in London, and the heatwave continued on stage — this is a show that starts at boiling point and never simmers down. Familiar to many from the 1977 and 1993 Meat Loaf albums, the material was originally intended by writer-composer-lyricist Jim Steinman as a musical, and Jay Scheib’s lavish staging realises that intent. It’s ridiculous, incomprehensible, super-loud, relentlessly over-the-top — and a total blast.
The plot is at the farther end of far-fetched: a batty mash-up of Romeo and Juliet, Peter Pan and Aladdin, with a rich sprinkling of dystopian grime and gothic excess. Following a chemical war, a ravaged city languishes under the iron fist of evil overlord Falco, who lives in the soaring, vulgar Falco Tower (now why is that familiar?) with his unhappy wife and restless teenage daughter, Raven.
Meanwhile, in vaults below the city live the Lost, who, like their namesakes in the JM Barrie classic, continue in a state of arrested development, but in this case everyone stops at 18. The Lost leader is the likeable, impulsive Strat, who, naturally, falls for Raven, leading to a battle royal between him and her dad, many bonkers plot twists and multiple opportunities for those hugely bombastic, ridiculously enjoyable songs.
It’s a sort of rebellious teenage dream involving romance, sex, sticking-it-to-the-man, motorbikes, leather and lashings of ultra-loud music. Best to leave any desire for subtlety, depth, character development and even logic at the door and just surrender to the sheer, pounding energy of Scheib’s production.
The throbbing heart of the show is Andrew Polec’s superb, wild-haired, wilder-eyed Strat. Close behind him are Christina Bennington’s sweet, unruly Raven and Danielle Steers as the funky Zahara. The whole thing is defiantly, enjoyably absurd: epic nonsense delivered with irresistible spirit and relish.