Arts: Dance - It may be authentic, but it's still a big pot of Irish stew

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
SHOWS BASED on Irish dancing always pull in a mass audience, and since Riverdance they have proliferated. The latest, at Drury Lane, makes a big come-on of the fact that its two leading dancers both starred in that hit show.

But a new Riverdance this decidedly is not. Ostensibly it does tell a story which is taken from an old Celtic legend. Girl marries older man but falls for younger tough, bringing disaster to all. If only it did turn out so simple or lucid. But I don't know how anyone would follow the plot here without close, previous study of the long programme notes.

What we mostly get in Dancing On Dangerous Ground is long, repetitive episodes of group dancing, interspersed with equally repetitive, and not especially spectacular, solos and occasional would-be significant looks.

Any drama soon goes by the wayside. Tony Kemp gives a sympathetic account of the grey-haired husband, Finn McCool, so far as his brief and largely static opportunities allow. But Jean Butler manages to be both pert and coy as the heroine Grania, and Colin Dunne makes a sulky little lout of her supposed heart-throb, Diarmuid. And it's difficult to see any real attraction between them. Is that why their only romantic number is performed in semi darkness?

So does the dancing make up for this? Well the first-night audience seemed determined to give frequent ovations, but I wondered what were they making such a fuss about. Butler has a pretty way with skipping bounciness, and a curious propensity for clutching the scenery, but by the time you see the same movement phrases over and over again they become a little empty. Too bad that lack of adagio in Irish dance makes her supposed solo of grief as light and lively as anything else she does.

The supporting ensemble run around in circles, advance in threatening phalanxes, or just sit or stand and stamp their feet. Trendily bearded, unruly haired Dunne does much the same, but more so, and usually with a fierce scowl, except when he lets his mouth hang open to indicate emotion. So maybe it is the music that gets people - so far as it can be heard under the clatter of these not so tiny feet.

Written by Seamus Egan and played by his group, Solas, Dancing On Dangerous Ground offers a real Irish stew of background tunes but no great sense of theatrical purpose. In just one respect the show prompts superlatives: it has some of the weirdest costumes I have seen all year. Butler's white wedding dress is certainly the silliest - swooping almost to the floor at the back, but only mini length in front, and worn over very solid black stockings. In this, just imagine, she sits and crosses her legs. What style!

To 5 February, 0171-494 5061