Australian Dance Reviews

‘Irish Celtic’ provides a warm welcome to traditional Ireland

'Irish Celtic'. Photo by Philippe Fretault.

Capitol Theatre, Sydney.
8 August 2018.

Irish Celtic, Spirit of Ireland brings a flavour of traditional Irish culture to Sydney’s Capitol Theatre stage.

'Irish Celtic'. Photo by Philippe Fretault.

‘Irish Celtic’. Photo by Philippe Fretault.

With the Irish loving their Guinness, it’s no surprise that the setting for this show is a quaint traditional Irish Celtic Pub. From the start, the audience is made to feel welcome as if they’ve walked into their local pub for a drink. “Hello, great to see you” and “Welcome to Ireland” says fun-loving pub owner Paddy Flynn, while also cracking a few jokes and mingling with the audience. Straight away, you know that this is going to be a unique show.

In an Irish pub, it’s the publican’s job to help ensure his patrons are enjoying themselves and that they’re entertained. Paddy Flynn does this through storytelling, covering key historical events from famines to battles and even the Titanic, brought to life through Ireland’s rich culture of Irish dance and music. 

'Irish Celtic'. Photo by Philippe Fretault.

‘Irish Celtic’. Photo by Philippe Fretault.

With Irish dancing as the drawcard of the show, the group of 12 male and female dancers hailing from Ireland gave a spritely polished performance showcasing a breadth of traditional styles. The dancers performed with ease, grace and boundless stamina, producing fast melodic beats in hard-soled shoes while working in synchronicity. Their soft shoe jigs on their toes were light and beautiful as they swiftly moved across the stage. Unlike the show Lord of the Dance, there was no one star performer leading the group. They worked as an ensemble with small solo moments that allowed the dancers to show off their fast footwork and skill. “We settle differences with our feet, not our fists in this pub,” set the scene for an enjoyable dance challenge between the male dancers as they tried to out do each other with their hard-hitting rhythms. Their costumes were relaxed and traditional, with the male dancers in smart casual tweed waistcoats and caps as well as kilts, and the female dancers in long flowing skirts, simply styled short dresses through to modern skinny jeans and crop tops. Using all parts of the set, the dancers performed on top of the counter of the pub’s bar and on precariously small beer barrels while not missing a beat. Choreographed by Jim Murrihy (former original cast member of Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames), there was a wonderful feeling of enjoyment and community on stage between the dancers as they authentically shared their love of Irish dance within the cosy and comfortable setting of an Irish pub.

'Irish Celtic'. Photo by Philippe Fretault.

‘Irish Celtic’. Photo by Philippe Fretault.

Adding to the feel of being at a real Irish pub was the live five-piece band that included piano, acoustic guitar, fiddle, piano accordion and Irish bag pipes led by Musical Director Anthony Davis. On stage throughout the show, this Irish band played original and traditional music, as well as scores from iconic films such as Braveheart and Last of the Mohicans. They did a wonderful job of not only providing music for the dancers but also having their own music interlude moments that added to the atmosphere of the pub. The singer/guitarist, Daniel Byrne, took centre stage for a smooth solo performance and an audience sing-a-long, and there was also an Irish bag pipe solo that captured the sounds of Ireland.

 To enjoy the stories, traditions, dances and music of Ireland there’s no need to catch a flight, just head to Sydney’s Capitol Theatre for this limited season.

Irish Celtic is at the Capitol Theatre Sydney until 12 August. For tickets, visit irishceltic.com.au.

By Nicole Saleh of Dance Informa.

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