REVIEW: An Evening with Kristina Rihanoff & Tristan MacManus feat. A1’s Mark Read – The Town House, Hamilton

Shows from current and former Strictly Come Dancing stars are plentiful and popular, and before curtain up at The Town House, the packed auditorium is buzzing. Unfortunately, when the curtain rises and the show gets on the road, the atmosphere takes a turn for the worse.

Instead of her usual partner Robin Windsor, Russian bombshell Kristina Rihanoff has teamed up with Irish dancer Tristan MacManus for this UK tour, An Evening With… while Windsor is a fleet-footed dancer with a completely endearing personality, MacManus is a leaden-footed whinger with a great big chip on his shoulder, who puffs and pants and wipes the sweat of his brow continually throughout the evening. For Rihanoff it’s her first tour since giving birth to her first child and she is in peak form, showing none of the effects of late nights, lack of sleep and nappy changing. MacManus too admits he hasn’t danced for aroung sixteen months, living in Australia and enjoying his new daughter, however, for him, it shows. He admits that he’s had a problem getting in to his old costumes, and from the design of the new ones we can clearly see that. His fitness levels leave a lot to be desired.

This show feels very different from the rest of the Strictly alumni. It almost feels as if the dance is incidental to the music. Host Mark Read from 90s boy band A1 is onstage throughout, providing the musical accompaniment, musical interludes and the interlinking chat that is intended to keep the show flowing. The end result feels more like a Mark Read concert with some dance breaks. Like Strictly, none of the dances last more than 90 seconds to two and a half minutes, these are then punctuated with lengthy music or chat breaks to allow for the multitude of costume changes and chances for the dancers to catch their breath. Unlike other ballroom shows, there are no other dancers, save for a performance by a local stage school with whom Rihanoff has a commercial interest. There’s a overwhelming feeling that corners have been cut in the production at every turn to the detriment of the paying audience and to the benefit of the performers’ pockets.

The usually cringe-worthy Q and A section is almost abandoned when no-one fills in the  question cards at the interval (a member of staff manages to rustle something up to save the day), MacManus uses this opportunity to whinge at his time in Strictly and wax lyrical about his time in Mrs Brown’s Boys. There’s then a lengthy (fifteen minute) section where the audience is encouraged to join in with Land of a 1000 Dances, then judge the volunteers on stage. The end of the concert is announced by Read, Rihanoff and MacManus join him for a quick turn around the floor, then it’s all over.

The show is a sell-out, but unlike fellow pro Giovanni Pernice who almost raised the roof in the same venue, the atmosphere is polite, but uncomfortable. People have turned up here from Elgin, Mallaig, Galston, Glasgow and every town that surrounds. For some it’s a helluva long way to travel for this lacklustre evening. Rihanoff remains the consummate professional, and her dancing is as stunning as ever, however, her partner lets her down badly.