Spirit of Ireland

Ireland has magnificent spirit, particularly when supported by the French. This has been demonstrated throughout the centuries and is no less true in buzzing pro-European Ireland today. The high-spirited Garryowen attack strategy was named for an Irish rugby club, and if the two nations play to their very best, there is every chance that the forthcoming Rugby World Cup Final will see France and Ireland battle it out, this time in opposition. Irish spirit lives in the pubs and fiddle-players of the Temple Bar, in the music of the Dubliners, and in the lush green fields of the glorious West coast.

Just like the whiskey, the stories and the songs feel rather rationed out

And so a show by French entertainment company Indigo Productions promoting the Spirit of Ireland should sparkle and fizz with Irish spirit and energy. There should be history and folklore and mythology, cultural insight and ceaseless folk songs, held together by gentle Irish quips, all just for the craic.

This production gives us a bit of this but just like the whiskey, the stories and the songs feel rather rationed out. The scene is set with a pub bar, a band in the corner and some wonderful barrels. The lighting is powerful and professional throughout. We are presented with a programme of Irish dancing and songs in rotation. A Landlord holds it all together, with the premise that he is passing his wisdom on to his son, together with the keys to the joint.

There is much to enjoy. The five professional male dancers give exhilarating performances of Irish dancing throughout the show, magnificent in their footwork and boundless in their energy. They are by far the best thing on show. There is a haunting playing of the pipes, evocatively lit. A final rendition of The Parting Glass is lovely to listen to.

And yet it all feels a bit transactional and formulaic, something designed for the tourists on a cruise ship outing into Dublin. Songs are rationed out one at a time when we are crying out for a medley. Some of the dancing feels like padding. And there is little cultural insight. The brush dance is great but what’s the story behind it? What were the pipes that were played? Who were all the Irish figures named by the Landlord? The role of girls in the show seems fairly old-fashioned - dance and be pretty so that the Landlord’s son can choose one for his father’s approval. Is the Irish spirit quite so misogynistic as this?

I have an even bigger problem with the treatment of the Titanic in the show. The pub and the music bears all the hallmarks of southern Ireland, evoking Dublin and the surrounding countryside. And yet the Titanic is emphatically a Belfast achievement. We learn that the Landlord’s fictional grandmother was aboard, survived and came home, as if she had been on a light cruise for her health. But those Irish aboard the Titanic were emigrants travelling in third class, usually disadvantaged young men seeking a new life in America. The lazy treatment of this in order to create a link to the Landlord feels like cultural unawareness or insensitivity.

If you fancy an hour of great dancing and a very few folk songs, you’ll have a pleasant Irish hour at this show. But like a good night in an Irish pub, you may not remember much about it in the morning.

Visit Show Website

Reviews by Ben Ludlow

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Since you’re here…

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

An incredible night of Celtic music, hilarious comedy, thrilling dancing set in the greatest pub in Ireland. An authentic five-piece band from Dublin. The finest dancers and choreographers from hit Irish shows, Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. Come on down to the Irish Celtic pub, meet charismatic landlord, and hear the legends of this 1,000-year-old pub whose history is rich and old. It's the Irish Choir of Man. Journey to the Emerald Isle for a mystical, magical and enchanting theatrical experience. Great craic and the best lock-in of your life.

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