Nailing my colours firmly to the mast, I must admit to not being the greatest fan of this Irish dancing sensation. Since it burst onto the world stage after an inauspicious start at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, it has become something of a phenomenon with three companies now on tour internationally. Described as 'a performance rooted in folk memory', Riverdance fuses traditional Irish dance with many other styles of performance; the result, according to taste, is either (as the publicity material optimistically terms it) 'fresh, unique and exciting' or a strange hybrid that occasionally ignites but all too often fails to really excite any passion.

Modestly tackling nothing less than the history of mankind, the show's rather patronising narrative voice leads the audience through each stage of evolution, dance colourfully illustrating this progression. Some sequences work far more effectively than others and it's certainly the ensemble, rather than the leads- Breandan De Gallai and Joanne Doyle- who provide real flair and cohesion. Notwithstanding this, there are undoubtably moments that fizzle with explosive energy, most frequently those inspired by other cultures.

When the dynamic Maria Pages appears silhouetted against an electric orange backdrop she proves that it can be the simplest images that hold the greatest impact and her two flamenco solos are a flamboyant treat; the same applies to the Russian folk sequence and to the enjoyable dance-off between the streetwise tapping trio and Irish emigrants at the start of Act Two I - a scene of enormous fun, both playful and athletically skilful. A lively band with the talented Mairin Fahy on fiddle add some verve to proceedings and though overall it certainly seems an insipid show, many of the audience seem to relish the kitsch spectacle on display so it's clearly fulfilling some sort of demand.

(Amanda Hodges)

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