London Theatre Review: Heartbeat of Home
| By Phlex X
I vividly remember Riverdance. In fact, I think it’s still in a box in a loft somewhere on video and usually came out at Christmastime. So, Heartbeat of Home (from the producers of Riverdance) was always going to be a trip down memory lane for me. On until 13th October at London’s Piccadilly Theatre, this dance extravaganza certainly took me back.
The opening voiceover was immediately reminiscent and when the dancers started I was transported back to a very familiar and happy place. What I was not expecting was how well the inclusion and fusion of dance from Africa, Argentina, Spain and Ireland would work.
The action weaves around a loose narrative of leaving home, travelling across the seas and reaching new lands. The inclusion of Argentinean and Spanish styles adds a spicy flourish which accents beautifully against the uniformity of the Irish tap; the modern dance serves to highlight some of the more poignant moments. David Bolger and John Carey’s choreography play well on the similarity in their chosen dance genres fusing Irish and Argentinean tap styles flawlessly and in other places juxtaposing them against the deep plies common in dances that draw their roots from Africa.
All this was set against a screen onto which different scenes were projected to help transport the audience on this journey.
For me, the live band was an absolute triumph, and they carried the show. Special mention to Cathal Croke for a particularly haunting solo on the uilleann pipes and Mark Alfred on the bodhrán during a segment, which I can only describe as duelling banjos, but with a drum and tap shoes. The range of genres the band took on, and the energy and enthusiasm with which they played (with not a song sheet in sight), was potent; propelling the dancers upwards, flitting birds who flock at dusk, rhythmic and beautiful.
Lauren Azania’s vocal was a welcome accompaniment to the music and adds an extra layer of depth. In places, it got a little schmaltzy, but her voice traversed the full emotional range from reminiscent to hopeful, emotive to passionate and raw and finally vocalizing the fiesta.
Bolger and Carey’s choreography manages to give a sense of the homeland being left behind and the new world years later, transcending and changing with time, but still retaining that heartbeat, a narrative consistent with so many immigrant cultures.
Act two opens with something akin to West Side Story and had me amused - and I think that was what they were going for - but felt a little misplaced. Then came a homage to an iconic photograph, with great solos, and genuinely laugh out loud bits, and all was well again.
The use of the screen didn’t really come into its own until Act 2, before that it was a little stilted and distracting but by the second act, I barely noticed it was there, and it grounded the action in a certain place, which in turn drew you in.
Moya Doherty and John McColgan’s vision is in places evocative and haunting and in others, a vibrant fiesta with moments of great comedic timing. It begins quite uniform and swells into a melting pot of colours, sounds, shapes, and culminates as a rip-roaring explosion of dance. Is it the Riverdance of my youth? In part, yes. Is it better? That is a matter of opinion. But if it is not, it is very close and is following in the footsteps of an institution, it is a production to be very proud of, and one to see.
Save on Heartbeat of Home tickets when you book by 16 September!
With tickets starting as low as £15 there is no reason to put of booking your Heartbeat of Home tickets. Treating yourself to a night out in London just got a lot more affordable, top tier weekend tickets are available at an incredible price, originally £108 are now available through London Theatre Direct for only £43!