Belfast Telegraph

Like strictly, but with cars: Fast & Furious Live rolls into Belfast

Plus could the city have a burgeoning new hotspot? 

By Jonathan Bell

Not for the first time there was traffic mayhem around Queen's Island at the weekend - but probably for the first time, it was all in doors.

As could be predicted Fast & Furious Live arrived in Belfast with plenty of tyre squeal, burning rubber and the eye-watering stench of petrol in the air.

It promised awe-inspiring, ground-breaking stunts, a feast for the eye for your average petrol head.

The show takes inspiration from the juggernaut that is the Fast & Furious franchise of films - it's either on film number 8 or 80 - whichever it is, it must be hitting a limiter.

And just like the films, there's a hint of a story mixed in with the live action.

We pick up with Sophia Diaz just after she has been enlisted to help track down one of the American Government's most wanted men. It escaped me but there was probably a good reason why cars were to be involved.

She takes us through a series of lessons in order to help us catch the bad guy.

Throughout the two-hour show live action set pieces are intertwined with scenes from the films, cast members talking about what it's like to be in the movies and then the characters appear to talk directly to the audience - because we are all family and all in it together.

In all there's 42 vehicles of all different shapes, makes and styles, including nine from the actual films.

The show is very much crash and bang.

There are set pieces which are very impressive. Cars boasting thousands of lights transform in front of your very eyes. Supercars, tanks, planes, helicopters, snow mobiles and even a truck all fit under the SSE Arena dome.

And using a 3D mapping system, the arena is taken on a trip around the world.

But for me, each set piece just went on too long. It was like Strictly Come Dancing.. but with cars. To see the cars pirouette around each other can only entertain for so long.

Given the limited space of an ice hockey arena there is only so much you can do - but the producers of Fast & Furious Live do squeeze a lot in and the choreography is impressive.

Drivers - including Jonny Irwin and Chris Burns from Northern Ireland - get the cars within a hair's breadth on a scary amount of times it should go wrong, but it doesn't.

And they do aim high, if at times the idea was probably better than the eventual execution.

But as I sat in under the dome of what was once the Odyssey, I couldn't help think that on this unusually sunny summer's evening, was there not somewhere outside this all could have been done just to add a touch more speed to all the fury?

And with all that being said - the show ticked every box for the kids. My two car-mad boys sat transfixed from beginning to end. The look on my eldest's when a tank burst through was of pure shock and awe. My youngest has said nothing but "Lambo," "plane" and other words that could only be classed as spoilers ever since.

After all, it's all about the family - and just maybe it passed me by.

Titanic transformation

One thing the sunny summer's evening did capture was the transformation ongoing around the Titanic Quarter.

The newly opened Titanic Hotel in the former headquarters of Harland and Wolff looks to be destined to become the city's newest night time hotspot.

Before the show we ate in the hotel's Wolff Grill and in the boss's old room - preserved from the time when it ship building rather than appetite conquering was the expertise.

The food as world-beating as the ships that once set sail from Belfast's docklands.

But what stood out was the setting.

As our taxi swooped into the entrance between the hotel and the Titanic building you could not help but be impressed with the setting with the Cave Hill dominating the background and the museum the foreground.

The night was just winding up, the atmosphere full of the anticipation for what lay ahead and the sun bringing out the best in everyone.

The hotel's bars were packed with good cheer with those looking forward to the night ahead. The decor fresh, new and modern with plenty of hat tips to a glorious past.

Whisper it, but with the right encouragement and the right development, the area could become the must-be-seen place for a night out in the city.

Get there quick and enjoy it before the crowd catches on.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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