Monday 27 January 2020

'Heartbeat' wins over crowd with everything from ceili to salsa

Alan O'Riordan

'Heartbeat of Home' – the latest spectacular from the John McColgan-Moya Doherty stable – contains Irish elements that literally share the stage with music and dance rooted in Afro-Caribbean and Latin cultures.

'Heartbeat of Home' is about common ground rather than cultural differences. Its 'Emigrant's Lament' features uilleann pipes, but the accompanying dance evokes more the plight of the asylum seeker than the job seeker.

The Brian Byrne score shifts through Irish trad, salsa and brassy Cuban rhythms. Against a high, ever-changing animated backdrop that at times mimics the experience of an IMAX cinema, this early highlight is tantalising.

Yet its potential seems unfulfilled in a first act that settles into a showcase of routines in various styles, its weak narrative interspersed with Joseph O'Connor songs that come as outbreaks of syrupy blandness.

The quality of the choreography by David Bolger of CoisCeim and John Carey, and of the musicianship, is never in doubt; and Ciara Sexton and Bobby Hodges lead a supreme group of dancers. But you feel the show could do more.

Luckily, in the second act, it does. It puts O'Connor's ear to good use with some witty lyrical flourishes. There is tango, flamenco, ceili and salsa.

'Heartbeat of Home' sees the global village as a stage we all can share. Our cultures, it suggests, are not important because they define who we are and where we come from but because they give us a point of departure, a context by which to explore and understand the wider world.

Irish Independent

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