Step into my Parlour invites you inside the cosy downstairs of The Royal Oak to hear traditional Irish folk songs performed by the cheery Michelle Burke. Decorated with what she describes as ‘installations’, the room is covered with old family photographs, newspaper clippings and an impressive-looking cake stand, making the audience feel right at home. As the knitting is passed around, Burke chats as if she’s with a group of old friends, interspersing her songs with stories from her family history, sparked by the surrounding memorabilia.
Accompanied by James Ross on the keyboard, Burke goes through her repertoire of both upbeat and sorrowful Irish folk songs, describing each one in turn and encouraging the audience to sing-a-long. Although she makes a couple of mistakes, this adds to the show’s informality, and if anything involves the audience further. Choosing songs from a woman’s point of view, some are very moving: ‘The Cruel War’ definitely brought a tear to the eye of several audience members.
Burke’s a cappella version of ‘Three Lovely Lassies’ was especially memorable, as the audience’s toe-tapping became the song’s accompaniment, and by the end of the song, all had joined in and provided harmonies. The intimate setting does have some drawbacks (anyone behind the front row will find it difficult to see the performance and decorations) but the friendly atmosphere is unavoidable, making it feel more like a party than a spectacle.