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6th May 2022

Review: Diversity – Connected

Theatre Editor Jay Darcy reviews Diversity’s Connected at the Opera House
Review: Diversity – Connected
Photo: Diversity.

I have wanted to see Britain’s Got Talent series 3 winner Diversity for years. They are, indisputably, the creme-de-la-creme of street dance. With Ashley Banjo, Jordan Banjo and Perri Kiely at the helm, the dance troupe is as dazzling as they were a decade ago, when they put the (instantly iconic) Susan Boyle in her (second) place.

The running theme of Connected is the internet. Each dance explores a different aspect of the internet – and technology, more broadly. The dance numbers were broken up with speeches from the troupe (mainly Ashley), video footage, and even the main trio creating a piece of music, with the help of the audience. It was a varied programme, threaded together with the theme of the internet.

Connected was brilliant right from the beginning, each dance more entertaining than the last, but I was not quite blown away until the final dance of the act. Whilst Singin’ in the Rain is coming to Manchester next week, Diversity were not prepared to wait. Artificial rain descended from the ceiling, drenching Diversity but never stunting their daring dancing. The dance became extra daring when the troupe ripped their tops off, revealing their threaded abs, much to the delight of the audience. They oozed so much sex appeal and power. It was a dazzling display of super strength and meticulous movement.

Ashley Banjo touched our hearts when he recounted his experiences in lockdown – especially the birth of his son. The video footage was very heart-warming, especially the recording of a video call with his mum, in which he sent her a video of his son. The documentation of the pandemic felt surreal; it’s hard to believe we went through that.

The show reached its emotional peak during the Black Lives Matter dance. Yes, Diversity recreated their controversial BLM dance (which received a staggering number of complaints on Britain’s Got Talent but later won a BAFTA) on the tour. The dance began with a recording of Ashley saying “Black Lives Matter”, before all the dancers took the knee – to the delight of the (majority White) audience, who clapped and whooped. Seeing the iconic dance in real-life was a dream come true. I cried throughout the whole performance.

It’s always a little uncomfortable when a performance addresses race/racism and you’re one of only a few brown splashes in a sea of White faces, but the entire audience gave this dance a standing ovation. It was beautiful to see, and it made me feel even more emotional. Heck, I’m holding back tears just writing this. It’s so rare for a number to get a standing ovation, but this dance was incredible – and incredibly important.

Another touching dance saw Ashley surrounded by mirrors, before the dancers behind the mirrors revealed themselves and joined Ashley for the rest of the simplistic but effective performance. Towards the end of the show, Ashley was joined by a number of drones, which he seemingly controlled with his every move – the power of dance.

I was not sure how well the show would handle its ambitious theme, but they did an exceptional job of tackling it. The show was not merely entertaining; it also got me thinking.

Diversity’s Connected plays at  Manchester Opera House until 7th May (with a matinee on the last day,), before continuing their UK tour until June.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

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