THE DEMON BARBERS – The Lock-In (Safecracker Pictures DVD SP059)

THE DEMON BARBERS The Lock-InHaving witnessed the ‘Celtic’ hit Riverdance on its opening night in London in 1995 and being absolutely blown-away (as was the sold-out audience) by the effervescent amalgamation of dance techniques I wondered if there might ever be a British ‘folk’ equivalent. Well, for me that long wait has now been answered with The Demon Barbers folk/hip hop theatre production “The Lock-In” formerly known as Time Gentlemen Please. Now, maybe it’s just me but the opening scene with its American Werewolf In London type pub set-piece being visited by three hip-hop dancers (and a particularly flash back-flip by one of them) perhaps seems a bit contrived as does the pantomime-ish rubbing of a pewter tankard in place of the obligatory genie’s lamp but bear with me, enter three clog dancers and the scenario is almost complete. As with Riverdance a battle of dance techniques ensues although this does appear slightly limited to the clash of hip-hop and traditional styles (Sword Dance, Rapper and Morris etc) and before anyone judges me of being ignorant about the other styles of modern dance technique I hold my hands up as accused. The inclusion of Grace Savage’s human beat-box is an interesting twist although I’m not sure about Ben Griffith’s ‘Jasmine’ the pub ‘landlady’…far too camp for my tastes and for those not into the Morris tradition it seems a pretty unusual character to include and a major distraction (for me anyway) from the rest of the performance. The song “Captain Ward” is a nice addition and the band carry this off with aplomb which leaves me somewhat surprised that they didn’t include quite a few more songs for good measure. While we’re on the subject of the musicians I was particularly impressed by Bryony Griffith’s fiddle playing and her understanding of the intricacies of ‘Morris’ tempos…so much more than just 4/4 or 6/8 rhythms! As for the sound engineering by Andy Bell and filming directed by Nigel Horne this is exemplary work and carries over to the excellent interview with Damien Barber and the other extra features. Even if you’re not particularly into dance but just into the mechanics of how a theatrical production evolves I’d suggest you purchase a copy of this DVD.

PETE FYFE

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MICHAEL FLATLEY – On A Different Note (Unicorn Entertainments)

There’s one thing Michael Flatley can never be accused of and that’s shying away from his own self-created public image. More established these days for his dancing prowess many may have forgotten or not even known that he is also a highly talented flute player…in fact…as an ex-all Ireland champion no less he can more than hold his own with the best of them! This album is a double CD featuring 25 sets of predominantly traditional tunes mostly given folk-rock arrangements although you wouldn’t have necessarily know the tunes were traditional (“Morrison’s Jig” and “Spanish Cloak” etc) as each set is given a general title but never broken down to its component parts or for that matter credited as traditional. Still, let’s face it, in this modern age of ours what’s a copyright payment between friends? It’ll probably come as no surprise to those that know me know I enjoy my folk-rock with a bit of fire in the belly and in this Flatley does not disappoint. Outrageous gestures on a grandiose scale such as the opening track “Rise Of The Tiger” feature alongside more subtle moments including the bluesy “So Easy” and “Whispering Winds” from his previous show Feet Of Flames. I’ve always been of the opinion that if money is no object then the production should convey this and hopefully, so long as you are prepared to be as broadminded as I am and put aside any cynical differences of it appearing ‘flash and artless’ the overriding effect will be pleasing to a far wider demographic and in this instance it’s a case of ‘job well done’. Perhaps not in the same league as Michael McGoldrick when it comes to displays of technical flamboyance Flatley is without doubt a fine musician whose heart lies squarely with his traditional roots and the ‘folk’ world should be proud we can count him as one of our own.

PETE FYFE

Artist website: http://www.michaelflatley.com/