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Wake review: Thisispopbaby’s brilliant new show is like Riverdance for club queens

Dublin Fringe Festival 2022: Jennifer Jennings, Phillip McMahon and Niall Sweeney find new life in old traditions


National Stadium

If a wake is the ritual marking of a death in Ireland, this new creation from Jennifer Jennings, Phillip McMahon and Niall Sweeney of Thisispopbaby injects the cultural tradition with new life. In a post-pandemic world they see the wake as a symbol of rebirth: the rebirth of connection, intimacy and what Dylan Coburn Gray’s narrative poem — which is performed by Felicia Olusanya in the high-priestess role and provides a loose structure to 90 minutes of physical play — calls “hereness”. It is a celebration of live performance and of being alive.

Alma Kelliher’s musical composition blends traditional folk airs with electronica and a heavy dose of sampling from 1990s dance music. Philip Connaughton’s choreography does much the same: think Riverdance for the club queens. Some of the routines — jigs performed by dancers wearing giant balloons instead of wigs — would be a bit gimmicky were the performers not so talented. With Irish uncles and English cousins — a shout out to DJ Duncan Disorderly (Emer Dineen) — Wake is comfortingly familiar and delightfully subversive: a brilliant night out.

Runs at the National Stadium, Dublin 8, until Saturday, September 17th, as part of Dublin Fringe Festival

Sara Keating

Sara Keating

Sara Keating, a contributor to The Irish Times, is an arts and features writer