Blue Man Group
Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink
New London Theatre
Blue Man Group has become a kind of New York institution. The show, now franchised across the USA and beyond, has been playing in its home city since its Off-Broadway debut some seventeen years ago.
English audiences will be tempted to turn up to see what all of the fuss is about. Initially, some may be put off by the blue plastic macs issued to those in the front row of the stalls and paper headgear to all.
Thereafter, they will find undemanding entertainment that draws on a number of different sources. The underlying effect will appeal to the rock concert generation with its lighting, communality and incessant bass beat.
In fact, soundwise it harks back to concerts of the seventies when lengthy drum solos were de rigueur. By the end of an hour and three-quarters each night, the three Blue Men, all of whom are adept at this arcane art-form, must have expanded their biceps by a few more millimetres.
It is hard to spot too much depth underlying the performance. This is more like circus or pantomime where the performance and gags are all that matter. If there is an underlying back-story, it is probably related to three blue men, possibly from Mars who look at our world with fresh eyes.
What they get up to can be dull or astounding and builds to an unforgettable finale that both looks and sounds great as the rock band, suspended behind the anonymous performers, really cranks up the pace and volume, pipes spiral from the ceiling and the audience is close to drowning in a sea of toilet rolls.
The central focus of the evening is on these three men with oily, blue faces and hands who drum for their lives and perform other odd feats. These include catching 34 consecutive marshmallows in the mouth, each thrown from around ten feet, bringing audience members (plants?) on stage for feats of derring-do or embarrassment, and spraying paint around very artistically.
The imagery also relies heavily on modern multimedia technology with film clips, video of a heavily-involved audience who are greatly appreciative of themselves, and computer-generated graphics. All very colourful and often spectacular.
There are spells where Jackson Pollock, Julian Opie and Michael Craig Martin are invoked and the artistic influences are all modern like the music.
Perhaps the most sophisticated humour of the night comes at the expense of rock bands and their inane dance moves.
Blue Man Group is pretty puerile but that is deliberate. It will therefore appeal far more to youngsters and party groups rather than discerning theatre purists. Whether the show has the legs to last as long on this side of the Atlantic as they have at home remains to be seen. Starting off in the substantial New London Theatre will probably mean a more lucrative early life but less longevity.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher