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Heartbeat of Home review at Piccadilly Theatre, London – ‘spectacularly crass’

The cast of Heartbeat of Home at Piccadilly Theatre. Photo: Jim Byrne
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Heartbeat of Home, a gaudy extravaganza from the producers of Riverdance, attempts to mix international flavour into the latter’s familiar formula.

While a video screen shows an assortment of pixelated landscapes, from gently lapping streams to tastefully graffitied city blocks, strutting salsa and flamenco couples skirmish suddenly amid the Broadway-size chorus lines of Irish dancers.

This is interspersed with some loose approximations of hip hop and wafty contemporary numbers that involve gauzy fabric and pained expressions to denote wistfulness.

That might sound tacky but well-meaning enough, but the show isn’t really trying to experiment with or meld movement or musical styles. Latin rhythms are contentedly slapped on top of reels and mawkish cinematic music, while a lead member of the Irish troupe might occasionally shimmy or force out some ‘street’ stance.

The performers are all dutifully well-drilled and it’s impossible not to admire their technical abilities. The problem is that Heartbeat of Home has its arteries clogged with cod-poetic schmaltz about ‘emigration’ that is at best deeply insensitive, at worst grotesque.

Forget poverty, persecution, detention centres. Forget Windrush and Brexit. The programme notes studiously avoid the word ‘immigrant’ in all the asinine spiel about “making new lives together” in the “land of dreams”, while the composer enthuses crassly about the “tribal passion and pride of African beats” and likens migrant experience to his own moves across the UK and Ireland to study music. The truth is ignored in favour of spurious crap – sadly and scarily, it’s a show for our times.

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Dutifully danced but spectacularly crass Riverdance show about ‘emigrant’ experience