If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Does time have a beginning or an end? What came first, the chicken or the egg? And can you really consider yourself 100% Irish if you've never seen the full Riverdance show in all its glory?
It's been 24 years since Michael Flatley and Jean Butler first sprang across the stage of the Point Theatre for a 7-minute-long Eurovision interval show, kick-starting a revolution in Irish dancing that no one could have predicted. Over two decades on, it continues to be hugely successful around the globe, with over 25 million lining up to see Bill Whelan, Moya Doherty and John McColgan's creation – not including us. Having hitherto managed to somehow sidestep one of Ireland's most famous cultural exports, we decided to make it our business to catch it during its 15th summer at the Dublin's Gaiety Theatre.
It's true that there are more tourists (largely American, judging by the accents) in tonight's audience than there are locals; it's also true that there is a certain hokiness to the 'mythical Ireland' shtick that is shoehorned into the show by way of a storyline. And it's undeniable that certain aspects of the show – not least male lead Kieran Hardiman's frankly criminal leather trousers – could do with an update. Nevertheless, it's clear to see why Riverdance continues to draw crowds after so long: it's simply a really enjoyable show.
The first act largely focuses on the Irish dancing element of the production, with a brief foray into flamenco courtesy of Spanish dancer Marina Claudio Manso. Both Hardiman – a cheeky Flatley-esque wink to the audience here and there – and female lead Ciara Sexton are hugely impressive, while the singers, which float on and off the stage at various intervals, are so pitch perfect that they sound like a backing track at times. The band are excellent, too, while special mention must go to outstanding percussionist Mark Alfred, who has his work cut out for him thanks to the consistently brisk pace of the show. The iconic title track dance – yes, that same one from Eurovision, which has become a staple at Irish wedddings in recent years - brings the first half to a thrilling climax, leaving the audience wondering where on earth the cast will go next.
As it happens, Act II mixes things up by introducing other dance forms, music and cultures into the show. Lamont Brown and Tyler Knowlin's jazzy tap dancing segment – and their dance-off with the Irish lads - is enjoyable, if a little too long. The Russian ensemble is fantastic, pushing the physical boundaries of the form to its limits, and before we know it – after various solos from the excellent band and another swoonsome song from the choir – the company are taking their final bows. We may be in the minority amidst visitors 'oohing' and 'aahing' over the sheer glorious Oirishness of it all, but bloody hell and begorrah, we've thoroughly enjoyed ourselves tonight, too.
Riverdance runs at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre until September 9th, 2018. See gaietytheatre.ie for more.