After COVID-related postponements, Oti Mabuse finally took to the stage in Swansea to tell the crowd: I Am Here. It almost goes without saying that the show featured fantastic choreography and truly attention-grabbing costumes – especially those worn by Oti herself – and the primetime TV favourite was joined on stage by multiple backing dancers including Welsh dance troupe KLA, plus a live band and West End singers.
Fans of Strictly won’t be disappointed – the show features Latin Ballroom styles, as well as contemporary dance and styles from her South African homeland. I Am Here also includes storytelling, pre-recorded interview-style segments akin to those featured in episodes of Strictly, and a medley dedicated to Oti’s favourite musicals.
The show goes back through time, starting with a tribute to her 2016 Samba with dance partner Danny Mac. There’s also a dedication to her husband Marius, who she met when dancing together in Germany (using 99 Luftballons, of course). Throw in references to feminism, a symbolic representation of the apartheid in South Africa, and a dedication to the West End, and the result is a show which is not quite sure what it wants to be. It did have a much more focused second half, centred around Oti’s native South Africa – here, she seemed most comfortable and exuberant.
Even if the show tries to do too much, what’s clear is that Oti Mabuse has curated a show in exactly the way that she wants, with no compromises. It is a celebration of her family’s support, the friends in her life, the love she holds for her husband, and all the women who have got her where she is today.
Despite the sparkle and energy of the performance inside the arena, the weather seemed to have put a dampener on the crowd’s enthusiasm. The atmosphere was a little lacklustre at times, though most people did get out of their seats for a dance during the final performance. The show might translate better in larger venues and with greater floor space; it seemed like a struggle at times for the dancers to contain their movements to the confines of Swansea Arena’s stage, rather than a sweeping ballroom.
I Am Here is a colourful, joyful experience that ought to put a smile on your face and make it hard to sit still, should you enjoy a dance. Does it become a bit too cheesy at times? Probably. Is it a little self-indulgent? Most definitely. But if anyone has a right to show off the wonderful person they are, it’s Oti.
Swansea Arena, Fri 24 June
words ROSANNA LEWIS
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