Belfast fans still drawn to magic of Riverdance
Interview by: Aine Fox www.newsletter.co.uk
The Irish dancing phenomenon which has taken the world by storm over the past 20 years made its third visit to Belfast last night to thrill audiences with the first of a seven-show run.
Featuring a number of local dancers, Riverdance’s Northern Ireland outing had to be increased by two shows such was the demand from fans who just cannot seem to get enough of a production that has grown from a seven-minute television performance at the Eurovision Song Contest.
This week’s Odyssey shows – which will play to almost 25,000 people – are the second stop in a jam-packed European tour, featuring a summer residence at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre and finishing up in Switzerland at Christmas.
Julian Erskine, who describes himself as the “last original remnant” from the original cast and crew when the production first began in 1994, said he has stopped trying to predict the show’s future as its popularity continues.
“I really have given up trying to second guess it now,” Julian, the executive producer, told the News Letter. “I remember saying maybe another two years… and that was 12 years ago! I think at this rate it could go on until 2020.” Exactly what makes the show such a success is not quite certain, he said, but added that the uplifting theme is sure to be part of the attraction. “It is very easy to watch,” said the 58-year-old. “It’s accessible and really it is all-round entertainment.”
Julian recalled people “skipping out of the theatre” in Limerick, where the European tour opened this year. And the next generation are just as happy to experience the production as the last, he said. “There was very much a sense of members of the crowd not having seen the show before,” he said.
While there were some changes made to the show during its fledgling years, Julian said the only ones since have been cosmetic. “There are new costumes and lighting and we’ve really made a concentrated effort in that sense with this tour,” he said.
“But the one thing we do not tamper with is the choreography and music. They absolutely work so we wouldn’t change a thing there.”
After visits in 1996 and 2002, Belfast audiences have shown their love of the show continues by selling out all seven shows between now and Sunday – with the cast even doing double performances at the weekend.
Despite the continued success of what seems to be an unstoppable production, Julian said the 14 crew and 40 performers do not take it for granted. “We are always quite cautious, and we would never just expect to do well,” he said.
“We appreciate all the interest and hope the show continues to deliver that feel-good entertainment factor to audiences.”