Review: Lord of the Dance, Edinburgh Playhouse

It's thrilling to watch the dancers drum their heels in percussive unison
It's thrilling to watch the dancers drum their heels in percussive unison
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For a production which claims to be the “world’s greatest dance show”, it is somewhat shocking how little Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance has changed since its “phenomenal” Dublin debut.

***

While no doubt, still entertaining and thrilling, the show’s spartan sets, costumes, choreography and overwrought narrative remain largely untouched.

Last night’s performance, at the Edinburgh Playhouse, further played testament to the fact that Flattery’s faux-Irish spectacular is in desperate need of a revamp.

Based on Celtic folklore, the show follows titular character – the Lord of the Dance – whose mission is to protect his kingdom from the malevolent, Don Dorcha. Guided by the nimble Little Spirit, the show’s hero is transported through time and space – battling the dark lord’s black-helmeted henchmen, through the medium of Irish dance.

Thematically, the show is a Vegas-style homage to the Emerald Isle, with flashing back-projected images of triquetras and swooping panoramic shots of green countryside. Ireland’s sainthood is represented by a procession of monks who flail and whirl about, disappearing behind a cloud of billowing smoke. More perplexing however, is the scene in which the fay-like women of the troupe discard their tunics for black shimmering bikinis.

Lord of the Dance has little to do with storytelling – or tradition, for that matter – rather it has more to do with spectacle.

Of course, it’s not all melodrama and pyrotechnics. Dance remains the production’s prime focus, and rightfully so. The company boasts some fine dancers and there’s an undeniable thrill in watching them drum their heels in percussive unison. Ultimately, it is this collective experience – the thunderous crescendo of tapping feet – that merits the audience’s rapturous response.

With the addition of flamenco, ballet and modern tap to the already strong show of Irish dancing, the production offers plenty to dance aficionados, and musical theatre enthusiasts alike. But while the actual performances are fine, Flatley’s bastardised vision of Gaelic culture leaves a lot to be desired.

Run ends Wednesday