Francis Footwork review: An infectious, joyful family show

CoisCéim uses dance as a metaphor for life in David Bolger’s artful, inventive tale


Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire
An irony of making a dance show that revolves around one person who hates dance and another who can't dance is that the skilled dancers have to dance badly. This they manage artfully and amusingly in the infectious Francis Footwork.

The new production from the always inventive CoisCéim Dance Theatre is its second family show (following the delightful The Wolf and Peter) and is about dancers and dancing. Written, directed and choreographed by David Bolger, it's a simple concept, adroitly executed. A CoisCéim show but for younger folk.

Francis Footwork (Ivonne Kalter) is, delightfully, the daughter of a watchmaker and an astronaut, which taught her “everything there is to know about space and time. And space and time is everything you need to know about dancing.”

She loves to dance, as does her best pal, RightBackAtYa (Cristian Enmanuel Dirocie, a nifty street dancer; there’s break-dance, krump and hip-hop dance in this show, melding with contemporary). King Two Lefties is (yep) an artfully clumsy dancer, but his malevolent adviser, Colonel Headbanger – both are played by Jonathan Mitchell – hates dancing (despite being an expressive mover), and manages to ban it.


“Dancing is like dreaming with your feet. Colonel Headbanger doesn’t like dreams, as they can give people ideas. People with ideas can be dangerous,” narrates the fourth dancer, Emma O’Kane.

You can read shades of repressive regimes into this, and dancing and music are clearly emblematic of life and happiness throughout the show. But the simple narrative is clear and funny and pleasurable for its young audience, and the dancing is elastic and exacting. There’s a wit at work here, too, not least in motifs like Colonel Headbanger’s use of a mobile phone to manipulate and distract RightBackAtYa from dancing, and from life.

Christopher Ash’s scenic lighting and projection design are striking, both magical and exacting, and there’s gorgeous use of mirrorballs and vinyl records, as well as projected backdrops.

It is a pleasure to see work of this quality for younger audiences. Joyful, clever, entertaining, intricate, technically superb and with a heart of goodness, Francis Footwork is a pure and simple delight.

Run concluded

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times