Diversity, HMV Apollo Hammersmith, London
Let's hear it for the (toy) boys
Wednesday 21 April 2010
The dance troupe Diversity know how to deliver. Diversitoys – Bringing a Toy Story to Life is precision-aimed at the millions of fans who voted them to victory on Britain's Got Talent. It's a bright, shiny show, dashing cheerfully from videogame narrative to audience involvement to greatest hits. Throughout, there's bouncy personality and a sure sense of what their audience want.
Created and choreographed by Diversity leader, Ashley Banjo, Diversitoys casts the group as action figures who magically come to life in a toy shop. Video scenes set up the story with computer animation and a rumbling voiceover. It leads into a brilliant image of the troupe's nine members standing in their toy packaging, breaking out through the cellophane as they're brought to life.
There's some more plot, about gifted toymaker Da Vinci and his envious rival, Mr Grief. Blueprints for a new toy are stolen, and must be rescued; the toys plunge into action. We never see Da Vinci or Mr Grief. The narrative is an excuse for the Diversity team to meet other toys, their guest-stars.
The female dance troupe Sugar Free appear as dolls, doing some candy-coated flirting with the boys of Diversity, while contortionist Delia du Sol becomes a plot MacGuffin, climbing out of a tiny Perspex cube.
The most spectacular star is THePETEBOX, a beatboxer who can layer different sounds until he's singing the rhythm, bass and vocal line of a song. With a nice line in patter, and an astonishing range of sounds, he was one of the show's highlights.
There's a bigger role for young Aidan Davis, another Britain's Got Talent star, who struts through street-dance routines as Bionic Boy. There's no danger of forgetting Diversity's reality-television background. A video montage gives highlights of their television career, while Bionic Boy fills a lull in the story by reading the book of the TV series. That's an excuse for the greatest hits, with a huge cheer from the audience when they see the team back in their familiar costumes.
Recognition is a key to Diversity's dance style. Ashley Banjo knows how to trigger audience response. The routines throw in fragments of dance, enough to prompt a memory before diving onto the next image. A Michael Jackson tribute ricochets from "Billie Jean" to the Jackson Five, glimpses of iconic moves mashed together with flickering speed.
It works because it's put together with such energy: the momentum never fades. A snatch of the Beach Boys prompts a surfing scene, the crew lying down as a human conveyor belt while young Perri Kiely "surfs" over the top of them. The image is there and gone, before they plunge onto the next one.
Most of the numbers stress teamwork, from the high-energy unison moves to the group lifts and catches. They clump together, then send one of their child dancers, Kiely or Mitchell Craske, hurtling through the air. I'd like to see a little more of Diversity as soloists, from Ashley's soft precision to Terry's force. Meanwhile, the drilled unity and explosive acrobatics made this audience very happy.
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