Holy Smoke! Brought to the world’s arenas by Warner Bros. Consumer Products, DC Entertainment and Nick Grace of Water Lane Productions Ltd, Batman Live assaults the senses like only a superhero knows how.
A spectacular mix of live action, animation, acrobatics and special effects, Anthony Van Laast’s production is a visual feast that’s impressively high octane from the dazzling opening until the final spin of the Batmobile.
Focusing on Robin’s journey from that of orphaned circus-performer to becoming Batman’s justice-seeking side-kick, the adventure leads our two heroes through mortal peril as they ‘pow’, ‘kbiff’ and ‘slammo’ their way through Gotham City’s most evil and eccentric villains. The surprise here is not the inevitable victory of the good guys. What is most remarkable is that a production of this scale delivers an engaging and touching narrative alongside such extravagant staging.
Sam Heughan as Batman and Kamran Darabi-Ford as Robin play their iconic characters with a satisfying familiarity. Their well-tuned performances are big enough so as not to get swallowed up into the colossal production, yet human enough to allow the audience to care. Act two is where we really get a sense of a developing relationship between these characters, as opposed to some of the more frivolous numbers in Act one, including a circus magic act that does little to further the action.
Faithful to the original DC Comics, the narrative is driven by stylish and emotive animation projected onto a 100-foot wall, providing dizzying journeys through Gotham City, from the Batcave to the Joker’s Circus to the climactic scene at Arkham Asylum, where Batman and Robin battle an entire rogues-gallery of baddies, including The Penguin, The Riddler and The Joker. Of particular note is stilt-walking Ian Henderson as the wheezing Scarecrow stumbling creepily across the stage.
Technically stunning, the show looks like a lighting designer’s dream. Patrick Woodroffe certainly excels here, as does Jack Galloway with spot-on iconic costume. Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night (of which there were many) was for the Batmobile, designed by former Formula One designer Professor Gordon Murray.
With cast of 43, pyrotechnics and endless special effects, Batman Live is a big budget production that, like its hero, pulls no punches. On the night I attended, there were lots of delighted mini and adult Batmans in the crowd, which must be a good sign! A thoroughly entertaining evening for kids of all ages.