REVIEW: Riverdance, Sunderland Empire, until November 15


OVER the years, it’s been copied countless times, and even playfully mocked, but nothing compares to the original spectacle of Riverdance

Hard to believe this soaring show started life as merely interval entertainment at the Eurovision song contest. Fast forward two decades and it’s a behemoth of a show, seen by millions, performed in far flung corners of the globe, from China to Cape Town.

In its 20th Anniversary tour, little has changed since the show took its first steps, a few scenes added / taken out here and there, but it doesn’t need to - if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Though talented dancers come and go (the show is no longer a star vehicle in the way it was when Michael Flatley was at the helm), what’s constant about Riverdance is the passion and strong narrative of Irish culture which meanders through the show and threads the dance scenes together.

Haunting uilleann pipes immerse you in a romantic Celtic world where the women are sprightly with lightning fast feet and the men are masterful, commanding the stage with a thundering tap of the heels.

Producer Moya Doherty stripped back the frills and faff of Irish dancing, the over-the-top costumes and ringlet wigs, to reveal its beauty in its rawest form.

Though the costumes are dainty and swish in time to the music you can’t help but be drawn to the performers’ plain black shoes as they are pounded and hammered in a feat of dance.

The famous line of dancing, which sees the dancers span the Empire stage, only happens twice in the show, but it doesn’t disappoint.

The synchronised rat-a-tat-tat of this talented troupe pulsates through you and you can’t help but tap your distinctly less talented feet in tune.