(reviewed at the Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage on 9 March)
This new touring production is both a story about Irish emigration in the mid-20th century and a showcase for traditional Irish dancing, an increasingly popular genre. The story by Ross Mills, Ged Graham and Trevor Payne focuses on a young man Sean Dempsey (Mike Burr) and his childhood sweetheart Cora McGowen (Shauna Barry).
Sean sees no furture for himself at home, so migrates first to London and then to New York. Here he joins the Police Department and saves enough money for Cora’s passage, but she is torn between her family obligations and her love for him. Eventually she decides to stay in Ireland and, somewhat on the rebound, he marries his captain’s daughter Ekeanor (also plyed by Barry).
Linking the different times and places is the narrator (Graham), first as the parish priest, then as a Cricklewood fixer and finally as the NYPD chief (all three men are brothers). All three principal come at their roles with sincerity, though Graham does tend to milk his, especially in the second half. Mills directs and the excellent choreographer is Lianne Stubbs.
You can’t fault to precision of the dancing ensemble with exceptionally neat footwork throughout and some spectacular leaps and jumps from Burr and the other male dancers. Jarrod Loughlin’s historical and topographical projections provide the background and take the place of scenery though Mike Stevens’ complex lighting design fell prey to a technological fault at the performance I saw.
It’s fair to say that the audience loved every minute of it, but there are longeurs; no doubt the show will tighten up as the tour progrsses (this goes on until May). Certainly the extended clap-along after the finale could be cut – not everyone wants to stand up and wave their arms about for what seemed like a quarter of an hour when cars, buses and trains await the journey home.
Ireland’s Call is at The Cresset, Peterborough (11 March), Cliffs Pavilion, Southend (26 March), Theatre Royal, Norwich (27 March), Prince’s Theatre, Claction (2 April), Regent Theatre, Ipswich (9 April), Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch (25 April), Mercury Theatre, Colchester (26 April), The Grove, Dunstable (28 April) and Civic Theatre, Chelmsford (2 May).