THE image of Mrs Doyle on Father Ted offering everyone a cup of tea with tenacious enthusiasm may have created an Irish stereotype – but there was a wee bit of truth in there, as audiences of What The Folk! soon discover.
The show does not take place in Dance Base; instead, we’re walked to the temporary home of four performers from the National Folk Theatre of Ireland.
Once seated in the kitchen, we are, of course, offered a cup of tea. Not just any tea: this one has been flown over from Ireland, because Barry’s of Cork is the only tea-maker trusted to produce a decent cuppa. There’s also some homemade lemon drizzle cake that one of the cast knocked up that morning.
If you’re starting to wonder where the performance aspect of this show comes in, never fear – it comes. Not straight away, and certainly not throughout, but it comes.
All of the cast have been schooled in drama, dance and song at Siamsa Tire, a cultural centre in County Kerry where the folk theatre is based. When one of them suggests singing a song, the room is suddenly filled with glorious voices. Or when they attempt to demonstrate the difference between competitive Irish dancing and their own preferred version of the art form “Munnix”, there’s suddenly a lively energy in the room. To sit so close to such intricate footwork and beautiful harmonies is a rare treat.
Performance is only one aspect of the show, however – and not the largest part (which is perhaps the only flaw here – we’re all clamouring for more). What makes this such a unique experience, is the craic – the personal stories about members of the company, the injuries sustained, the strong views about what has happened to Irish dance in recent years.
It adds up to a very special hour that left me desperate to head to Kerry and see it all for myself.
• Until 19 August. Tomorrow 3pm and 6pm.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
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Wind direction: East
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Wind direction: North east