Dance, physical theatre & circus review: The Humours of Bandon

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Sixteen-year-old Annie has been dreaming of winning the Irish Dance Open Championship for as long as she can remember '“ and now it's almost within her grasp.

Margaret McAuliffe brings the world of Irish competitive dancing to life. Picture: Maria Falconer
Margaret McAuliffe brings the world of Irish competitive dancing to life. Picture: Maria Falconer

Dance Base (Venue 22)

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She’s practised hard, bought a new costume and spent a sleepless night lying with uncomfortable ‘bendies’ in her hair so that it looks just right.

But being a winner isn’t just about dancing the right steps in the right order, as we discover in this absorbing play from Dublin’s Fishamble company. It’s about making sure you’re not in the toilet when they call your name, about exuding the right shade of confidence and – above all – hoping you’re marked by a judge who looks upon you favourably.

We learn all this and more as Annie, aka writer and performer Margaret McAuliffe, looks back on her teenage years spent in competitive dance. McAuliffe is a fine actor, switching between the roles of Annie, her friends, mother and coach with just the flick of her head and change in tone.

She’s also a fine dancer, hard-won from 18 years on the competitive circuit. Pulling on three different kinds of footwear, she demonstrates the various sections of the competition, clicking her heels in the hard shoes, bouncing delicately in the soft.

The show’s title takes its name from a four-person Irish jig, often danced in competitions, and one which Annie is told she excels in by her almost obsessive dance teacher. But in the end it’s the joy of dancing that shines through, even though it’s made clear that sadly, that’s often lost when every step you take has a score attached to it.

Witty and poignant, this is a story that invites you to climb inside and enjoy the ride, told by a performer who has lived and breathed the world she so expertly conveys.

Until 27 August. Today 6:30pm.