Fabulous Beast / Liam Ó Maonlaí / Michael Keegan-Dolan
Cork Opera House
Reviewed 22 June 2012 by Sarah Brett, Niamh McCormack, Sarah McGooghan, Megan Moroney, and Aaron Mullaney
Rian as gaeilge translates as ‘imprint’. Inspired by Sean O’Riada (one of the most influential icons in the mid-20th century revival of Irish traditional music), Liam Ó Maonlaí ‘s music inspires powerful and emotional movement from both the cast of contemporary dancers, and, at the show’s end, the audience. The experience is unique and awakens the primal imprint of rhythm and joy within us. Along with O’Maonlai, Michael Keegan-Dolan, artistic director of Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, has created a beautiful, passionate and moving ensemble of music and dance.
The technical abilities of both the dancers and musicians are evident throughout the performance. The organic beat of the dancers’ bare feet on the floor reinforced that of the bodhrán, combining to create an electric atmosphere. Although at times the dancers are not directly in sync with each other, the contemporary movement offers a context for this. Rian is a traditional Irish music lover’s paradise but the tribal beats and foreign and modern influences mean it is not exclusively so.
The stage layout was very striking as eerie shadows cast upon the light green backdrop helped create a feel of nature throughout the show – like how fire casts shadows upon the earth around it. Also the traditional semi-circular layout of the musicians and dancers worked well, as the audience felt as though they were taking part in a real Irish session.
There were certain aspects of the performance, however, that felt somewhat obvious and perhaps stereotypical. The nature of the stage layout made it difficult to see the whole performance at times; and there were some musical faux pas in terms of harmony. The ending of the performance was somewhat misleading as after the cast took their bow the show continued on, which was fortunate as the audience was then asked to come up on stage and dance with the cast. As minor as these flaws were, they were trifling compared to the overall performance of this outstanding show.
Rian gives a beautiful impression of the Irish culture and spirit. The performance offers an open and inclusive look into the Irish community. The dancers’ vivacious performance created an excitement in the audience and throughout the performance you had to suppress the urge to jump on stage and join the dancers. At the end, we finally were given this chance! Overall, this performance left an imprint on its audience and we highly recommend you to go and see it.