When asked to imagine a folk dance, your mind might turn to the quaint toe tapping and stick clacking of Morris dancers or the stomping theatrics of the river dance. Never would you envisage a hip-hop folk mash-up, merging the two dance forms into one and creating a spectacular fusion of sound and movement. The Lock In is exactly that.
Prior to the performance, you are emerged into the world of folk music by witnessing the array of traditional dancers in the foyer of the theatre. A pleasant set of routines and music from local dance troupes puts a smile on everyone’s face as they take to their seats and settle down. The audience is then eased into the folkie feel by a short but sweet set from singer, concertina player and guitarist, Eddy O'Dwyer. The Lincoln based singer’s Celtic vocal tone complimented his set of traditional songs and ditties and it set the audience up for a night at the local tavern.
The show begins in the setting of a run-down folkie pub ‘Ye Olde Fighting Cock’, where a dubious looking trio, ‘The Beat Eaterz Crew’ hides from the police. But this isn’t just any pub! After they discover an old tankard, the magical fusion begins. The - all-be-it loose - storyline attempts to bring folk routines in to the present by combining dance styles from clog and Morris even to sword dancers with their rival hip-hopers. Breaking, locking and popping their way through the two part showcase, our trio charm the audience with comic interpretation of an often-misinterpreted dance style.
The Lock In is more of a theatrical dance presentation than a play. Whilst it displays a surprisingly ingenious concept, it caused slight confusion in its attempts to create a vague storyline and artistic director, Damien Barber, may have been better off removing the storyline all together. The recital encouraged a sequence of dance-offs amongst the customers involved in the ‘Ye Olde Fighting Cock’ lock in. As the evening progresses and the drinks begin flowing, the tenuous links between hip-hop and folk styles become solid and explorative. The rivals dance to the same beat but retain their own style rather than adopt that of their opponents.
Not only does the athletic gymnastics of the break-dancers and the traditional tapping of the cloggies begin to combine, but their accompanying musical styles also begin to mesh together. Strong praise goes to Grace Savage, the resident beat boxing expert, who creates music and sound effects that should be possible of no human. She musically narrates humourous scenes and creates rhythm for both groups of dancers. On the flipside, the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winning, Demon Barbers fiddle away and Bryony Griffiths soothing vocals weave beautifully in and out of the beats laid down by Savage.
The Lock In is an infectious frolic through time, from England’s earliest dance form, Procession to the modern emergence of American tap dancing and it really gets you clapping along and tapping your feet. Whilst the theme begs a better storyline, The Lock In avoids the serious and frumpy nature of most folk dancing and homes in on the talent of its dancers. With a finale of shared dance moves and a hip-folk musical fusion, there isn’t a more intriguing dance experiment out there.
An after show performance in the upper bar area really ends the night with a bang and brings the dancing to the people. With some of the most streamlined hip-hop dancing I have ever seen and the impressive strength and precision of the sword dancers, this show really has the wow-factor.