“I would do anything for love…” is probably one of Meat Loaf’s best-known lyrics, and it provides the backbone of this entire production. Bat out of Hell follows the story of Strat, a street kid whose DNA was frozen when he was 18 preventing him from ageing, and Raven, the daughter of the local power-hungry magnate. They meet by chance when Raven sneaks out from her home, desperate to experience life outside her protected bubble. With the help of a stellar soundtrack written by Jim Steinman, we see their relationship grow and then falter, we experience some of the challenges Strat and his friends face on the margin of society and we share in Raven’s frustration with her overprotective father; and then we witness a rousing finale that answers the question of just what people will do for love.
The creative set design (John Bausor) and the use of an on-stage hand-held camera to project images from semi-hidden spaces was at times ingenious and at times meant that there was a lot going on, which left me not quite knowing where to look and which part of the story to follow. This same busy-ness was also present in a couple of other moments where backing dancers appeared seemingly without explanation, and it did feel as if the creative team were a little afraid sometimes of just allowing their stars to shine.
And stars they truly are. The clever orchestrations (Michael Reed/Steve Sidwell) gave every member of the ensemble a moment in the spotlight, and each one grabbed that opportunity with both hands. Joelle Moses as Zahara and Killian Thomas Lefevre as Tink did a great job of balancing the powerful and emotional sides of their vocals and performances. Martha Kirby demonstrated a clear conviction of Raven’s path and choices, and she really knows how to use her voice to the best effect.
Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton as Falco and Sloane, Raven’s dysfunctional parents, provided some brilliant comic relief throughout the piece, while also fully exploring the darker side of their own relationship and their position of power. The production is worth watching for these two alone.
However, there were significant issues with the quality of the sound, which meant that many of the song lyrics could not be heard clearly, particularly during some of the bigger numbers where several voices were singing at the same time – which frustratingly meant that I had to work quite hard to piece some elements of the story together. For many avid Meat Loaf fans, I suspect this presented much less of a problem, as they would have known all the words anyway; but for someone with less knowledge, it really did cause some issues.
Despite the sound-related challenges, I really did enjoy the show, and the band did a stellar job with the music. Building on a loose interpretation of the story of Peter Pan, this is a show for our time, with themes of political corruption, family conflict and the exploration of life whether you’re young or old. So, make the most of one night together with this cast!
Bat out of Hell continues at the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent until Saturday 30th April, and then the tour continues around the UK and Ireland until November. More information about dates and ticket links can be found here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/bat-out-of-hell/regent-theatre/
Please note that this production contains strong language, scenes of a sexual nature, and strobe lighting.
Reviewer: Jo Tillotson
Reviewed: 26th April 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★