Strictly Come Dancing: The Live Tour

Glitz, glamour, humour, talent (sometimes questionable) and the wow factor – Strictly has it all. 2017 marked the year of the tour’s tenth anniversary and it did not disappoint.

The show’s layout is identical to the television show so if you’re a super fan like myself and my mother then I cannot recommend it enough. There’s something mesmerising about seeing the dances in person rather than through the screen. Some may argue and say that for the money they paid they want to see new dances – not just the ones you can now watch on the BBC Strictly YouTube page – but each dance is improved for the tour. Each couple can have an ensemble of dancers plus a much larger playing field to dance on. Plus, hearing live music will always change the atmosphere instantly. Therefore it is still a breathtaking experience as you can witness the true Strictly magic first hand.

And, since I’m certain my boyfriend will not be reading this review, who wouldn’t want to see Danny Mac’s samba in the flesh?

I mean…

Wouldn’t you?

As usual, in true Strictly fashion, the costumes were stunning. I think the total number of sequins used is more than the population of Scotland. Plus the props, the lighting, hair and makeup were as perfect as ever.

Plus if you’re a “man’s man” and the thought of being dragged to see Strictly with your wife or girlfriend is turning you green then don’t worry! There’s fire effects!

All jokes aside, I have to congratulate Strictly for welcoming all ages, genders and sexualities into their audience. True, the vast majority of viewers are women – older women to be honest – but there is something to be admired in its popularity with such a wide range of individuals.

This year marks the sixth time my mother and I have witnessed the Strictly magic in the flesh and it is by far my favourite. I can’t tell if the production was bigger, or if I simply liked the contestants better, or the dancing in general was more moving, but the one thing I know for sure is that I will never ever forget Craig Revel Horwood performing Gangnam Style in a kilt.

I wish I had a photograph, I really do.

Speaking of photographs, may I take your time to complain about the use of mobile phones at live performances. (If you do not care for my rant, please skip past the next image or check out my review of La La Land here).

I understand that many viewers want to take a picture to remember the moment. I understand they want to be able to show their friends and family and make them feel varying degrees of jealousy. But, please, if you’re going to take pictures, turn off your flash? For one; it’s annoying, and for two; it’s just going to bounce off of everyone’s heads and make what you actually want to photograph stay in darkness. Trust me – I’m a millennial.

Furthermore, do not then sit and update your status on Facebook while the performance continues. I am certain you can wait until the show finishes – or even at the interval – where you can hashtag as many sayings as you want. Trust me – I’m a millennial.

Anyway, moving on.

Something that differentiated the 2017 tour was “Len’s favourite dances.” Just after the phone lines had closed (and 10p went to Children in Need) they played some clips from series past. This was a nice touch – especially from Len since it was his last time on Strictly. It definitely got a laugh from the crowd and fond smiles were brought to many faces.

Anita Rani hosted this year’s tour and she did a good job keeping the show flowing. To be honest, I didn’t warm to her when she was a contestant however I didn’t let this put me off. And, luckily, I found her quite endearing while hosting. 

Halfway through the first act, a strange thought popped into my head. Why does this entertain me? Why does a person moving their body this way and that tug at my heartstrings? Why does someone holding their voice at different pitches make a tear come to my eye? Why when put together do I feel a smile beam from my face? It’s the question I’m sure my boyfriend and father continuously ask as both my mother and I sit ignoring them on Saturday nights. But I can’t explain it. I’ve often said I’m born in the wrong era but I thank Strictly for bringing a beautiful form of art into my life.

And also Giovanni.

Thank you Strictly!


La La Land

I have to admit, when seeing the trailer, hearing the hype, witnessing the awards, my first impression of La La Land was, “How pretentious is this going to be?”

Seeing Damien Chazelle’s name slapped on the side also made me groan. I think I’m the only person alive who has ejected the Whiplash DVD prematurely. I know, call me a monster, but I couldn’t stand watching it. My friends would tell me in high pitched, breathless voices that “it’s the same director as Whiplash!” as if that would encourage me to go. 

My plan was to wait until the DVD of La La Land was under a tenner and then I’d consider buying it. Or, even better, wait until it comes to Netflix! But, while me and my boyfriend stood in freezing Edinburgh, our ghost tour not starting for another 4 hours, he convinced me to hide from the cold in a cinema.

The theatre was packed. So many shiny eyes glared at us as we entered; watching like hawks as we chose our seats. Few were left so we made our way closer to the screen than any regular cinema goer would normally travel. As we settle in, craning our necks back, I was ready to hate the Golden Globe triumph.

And then it started.

Vibrant colours, beautiful score, insane dancing, all in the first 5 minutes of the film. I’m a sucker for a good musical and the opening was incredibly promising. I felt myself relax and began to enjoy myself…

So I quickly snapped out of it and put my film critic hat back on.

Costumes were cute and quirky yes, setting was stunning, the cinematography was something to behold but the singing and dancing – in a musical, mind – was not perfect. I found myself scrutinising Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s every movements, facial expressions and delivery. Before seeing La La Land for myself I knew that the pair had won Best Actor and Actress. In the first half of the film I found myself questioning this decision. I found nothing to write about. Stone was quirky as ever, Gosling was his usual charming self, but I couldn’t believe they had won a Golden Globe for their performances.

And then…

Suddenly everything clicked into place. The message of the movie hit me in the face and the actors began to seriously act. The hurt in Stone’s eyes to the desperation of Gosling, the Golden Globe trophy began to make a little more sense. The cutesy, musical flash mob opening was forgotten as real life began to creep in. 

My mother read me a tweet from one of her favourite authors, Christopher Brookmyre, which said, “Saw La La Land. A musical that forgets it’s a musical after about 45 minutes. Shaping up to be the critics most over-rated film of 2017.” She sat smirking at me devilishly, knowing I would take the bait and bite. 

And bite I did.

Brookmyre, you missed the point! The reason the singing stops “after about 45 minutes” is because this is when characters begin to loose faith. La La Land isn’t about love, it isn’t even about music, it’s about dreamers. Those people who some will laugh at and say “they’ll never make it” or “they’re living in their own world” or even “they’re being unrealistic.” The people whose ideas control their lives, who never let real life get in the way of their goals, who want noting more than to achieve their dream. That’s the reason the musical forgets it’s a musical after about 45 minutes; the characters realise their dream is much harder to achieve than they originally thought. That’s why the musical opens with a large song and dance number; they’re going into the city with their dreams unshattered. And that’s why, Brookmyre, the song and dance numbers slowly disappear; because the city slowly crushes the dreamers dreams.

As someone who would label themselves a “dreamer” this film deeply touched me. I found myself weeping at Stone’s solo. I found myself looking over to my boyfriend in panic as I saw both Seb and Mia in both of us. I felt vulnerable as I found my heart breaking. I became what I had tried so desperately to avoid.

I became emotionally invested.

Suddenly it all made sense: the reason the actors aren’t the best singers or dancers is so I can relate more to them – it’s more realistic. The reason the film came across so artsy and pretentious- it’s to show how the dreamers think. The reason the colours are so vibrant, the cinematography so brilliant, the aesthetics so gorgeous- well, that’s Chazelle’s genius isn’t it?

And yes, I’ve fallen in love with Chazelle. Maybe I need to pop the Whiplash DVD back in and finish it this time. 

So, if like myself you hear the hype about this film and groan – don’t let it put you off. It’s the first film I’ve seen in 2017 and it’s ready to take the title of my favourite film of the year (and it’s still only January!) I would definitely recommend this film to any dancers, singers, artists, writers, filmmakers, basically anyone who has been told their dream is too far fetched. Anyone who has had an elderly couple frown at them and ask, “But what are you really going to do with your life?” It’s for all us dreamers.

Which is every single one of us, in one way or another.