Bat Out Of Hell Wimbledon

Review: Bat Out Of Hell, New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: Bat Out Of Hell, New Wimbledon Theatre

Jenny Booth reviews: “Bonkers but brilliant …  big, exciting show to revel in”

Image: Glenn Adamson as Strat and Martha Kirby as Raven in BAT OUT OF HELL THE MUSICAL. Photo Credit – Chris Davis Studio

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Meat Loaf. He will be truly missed and we believe that this musical is an excellent tribute to his contributions in music and performance.

Bonkers but brilliant, Bat Out Of Hell: the musical blasted onto the Wimbledon stage last night with a thunderous crashing of rock opera chords and revving of gas-guzzling engines. Anyone trying to forget the early 1980s will immediately find “it is all coming back to them now”, in a show that celebrates a weird but strangely wonderful corner of that misbegotten decade: Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell albums. Portentous, overblown and angsty they may have been, but they were also tuneful, cleverly written, wry and so relatable that you had to love them a bit. And the same goes for this stage show, which is way, way better than the loosely strung-together list of hits that constitutes the average jukebox musical.
All credit to the cast who, clearly glad to be back on stage, know their parts inside out and give 110%. The quality of the singing and acting is stellar, particularly from the three main female characters, each of whom has a narrative arc to portray. Martha Kirby, as heroine Raven, has to grow up from an angry, frustrated teenager, and does so with a presence so assured and a voice so secure that it is hard to believe that she only left drama college in 2019. Joelle Moses excels as Zahara, a tough nut who finally cracks, while Sharon Sexton rejuvenates Raven’s jaded mother Sloane from wise-cracking, cynical lush to a renewed optimist.
The plot is nonsense. Immortal teenage mutants the ‘Lost’ (a nod to JM Barrie), dressed in ragged leather, battle a dictator’s private security forces in the subways under a wrecked future city, while the dictator’s teenage daughter, Raven, runs away from her controlling parents to be with the charismatic mutant leader, Strat. Imagine a mix of Romeo and Juliet and Mad Max Beyond The Thunderdome, and you get a flavour. In the first act, Glenn Adamson dominates the stage as Strat, channelling Johnny Rotten and writhing like an eel in a performance full of menace and electricity; though in the second act he is more handicapped by the lameness of the plot.
Luckily, attention is distracted by Steinman’s excellent dialogue, which is sharp and frequently witty. Sexton and Rob Fowler as dictator Falco have the best lines, dissecting their foundering marriage with sarcasm and brilliant timing. “You’re such a dic…,” slurs Sloane, hastily adding “…tator!” as Falco swells with anger. The number where they relive their youth to Paradise by the Dashboard Light is a belter, ending comically with an auto engine being chucked into the orchestra pit onto several disgruntled musicians.
Earlier reviewers have criticised the dancing as staid, but work has clearly been done to correct this as Xena Gusthart’s choreography was thrilling in the set pieces. The tone of dystopian alienation is set from the start with the clever use of a live and pre-recorded videoing of the action, projected onto a big screen above the stage. This is a big, exciting show to revel in.