Friday 30 November 2018

Magic Mike Live @ The Hippodrome Theatre

Magic Mike Live @ The Hippodrome Theatre

They say people are sexier with their clothes on. Never has a truer word been said.

Magic Mike Live is of course a show about male strippers, but the men are far sexier when they're not in the semi-buff flashing rock hard abs and twinkling smiles. When they're singing love songs from behind a piano. Tap dancing. Smouldering in suits.

Funnily enough, there's the potential for an interesting show beneath all the gawping and bravado, a show about men and masculinity in all its forms, the truth about female sexual desire. The men themselves are an ethnically diverse bunch who perform multiple dance styles that trade in different shades of masculinity. Confidence. Shyness. Sensuality. Talent. The latter, more than anything, is far sexier than thrusting in a woman's face, be it singing, dancing, athleticism, spinning on a rope from the ceiling, or dancing in the rain.

Yet all this is wrapped up in some horrifying gender politics. We're told we can touch the men, that ladies these men are here for your pleasure. And the audience do as they desire, lustily, greedily grabbing for any pair of buttocks in easy reach. In seeking to flip the male gaze on its head, the show reaches an opposing, shocking extreme. Men aren't allowed to touch women in a strip club, why should women be allowed to touch men?

It's the female MC, played by Sophie Linder-Lee, who represents all the worst qualities of the show. Beyond simply being an irritating distraction between the dances, her dated jokes are full of gross-out humour that utterly cheapen the show. "My minge is like a Tesco Express," she tells us, "it's always open." Later she borders on the xenophobic, asking an Italian dancer to speak English when he lovingly describes a woman in his native language. Rather than aiming for anything nuanced or intelligent, the script is crass and the dancing animalistic to the point of pornography.

Further, it's clear the show is designed exclusively for women. The MC always addresses the audience as ladies. The humour is all female-orientated. And that's despite the multiple men in the audience, be they gay or straight, single or accompanying their spouse. There's a distinct lack of inclusion here, never straying from its heteronormative roots. A show about semi-naked men is always going to attract a gay audience; to not acknowledge that is a missed opportunity that alienates a small but not insignificant portion of the crowd.

That lack of acknowledgement stretches to the dancers themselves, too. It's great that they dive and climb into the audience from all angles to entertain everyone to the full, except anyone who isn't female. Barely a glance or a jokey wink are aimed at the male audience. Instead, these hyper-masculine dancers, so secure in their sexuality, are not so secure as to even laugh at themselves in front of another man. They are slaves to femininity.

Is all this thinking too much on a show about the simple pleasures of sex and stripping? Probably. For those audience members celebrating a birthday/hen-do/special occasion (delete as appropriate), more than tipsy on cocktails and high on the scent of pheromones, this is a highly entertaining evening of male semi-nudity, sweat, after shave and...athletic ability. 10/10 would watch again.

But with its false opening, it's framed as being something more than a shallow cheap show. Yet that's ultimately all it is. It's meant to make us feel empowered. Instead you'll need a cold shower.


Watch: Magic Mike Live runs at the Hippodrome Theatre until October 2019.