Brendan Cole: Licence to Thrill at The Barbican 13/02/13

Every January, as the public are suffering from a severe dose of Strictly withdrawal a number of the show’s professionals embark of lengthy nationwide tours and Brendan Cole’s Licence to Thrill is no exception. However, unlike the hideously scripted, schmaltzy love-in that in the official Strictly Come Dancing Live! tour, this show really gives the audience what it wants, which is of course to feel closer to the show’s stars. Cole is effortlessly charismatic, energetic and clearly still on a high from the birth of his first daughter born on Christmas Day.  The show is an utter treat.

 Licence to Thrill makes no apologies for its high camp energy as Cole’s entrance to the stage in announced by a heavy use of pyrotechnics and a rather glittery Cha Cha to Boogie Wonderland. Cole is accompanied by a superb onstage band and five supporting dancers, his brother Scott, Crystal Main, Patrick Helm and Melanie Hooper. Cole’s intensely watchable partner for the evening is Fauve Hautot, unknown in the UK, Fauve won the French equivalent of Strictly as a professional and is clearly popular there as her 56,000 Twitter followers indicate. She is young, seductive and very engaging, giddy with excitement that her father had flown to London to watch her performance that night. I can perhaps forgive then that at times she resembled a young Bambi as Cole enthusiastically throws her into lifts and drops that she sometimes struggles to control, although her endearing smile and lack of any understanding of the English language make me want to forgive her.

The promised James Bond theme is not as prevalent as the publicity promises however Cole and Hautot’s Rumba to Licence to Kill really does stand out and uses Cole’s passionate, sensual and powerful technique to its full extent. Cole’s choreography is obvious throughout all of the numbers and there is a real sense of him enjoying his freedom to create work that he loves without the frustrating limitations the Strictly rules allow. After all what is a show like this without an abundance of lifts and floor spins? However, Cole is wise not to forget some of his more mature fans appreciate his Ballroom as much as his Latin and the inclusion of the beautifully romantic Waltz to With You I’m Born Again momentarily creates that magical atmosphere.

It terms of entertainment, the show ticks many boxes. Cole is quite the qualified entertainer now chatting confidently with the audience, responding to the odd heckle and singing Latin classic Save the Last Dance for Me even managing to get the audience on their feet and joining in. There is a moment when the heel on one of Cole’s dance shoe breaks and he is temporarily unable to dance which he covers with humour and grace. It is a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is all the better for it. Shows like this don’t need an unnecessary narrative such as Strictly counterparts Vincent and Flavia’s West End show, Midnight Tango. The audience want a wide range of fantastic dancing with sparkly costumes, some witty banter and a meaty Q&A that enables them to feel like they have really gained something through buying a ticket.

With Cole’s camp-fest of a show only bagging one London date in contrast to Simone and Cacace’s long residencies at various central venues I am left scratching my head slightly. Although shows like Cole’s have been seen countless times in the past, most notably from Anton and Erin I am a great believe in if in ain’t broke … The audience completely lap up what they see … even those husbands who had been unwillingly dragged along.

 First published on www.londondance.com 

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