Backstage troupe for ‘Riverdance’ in perfect sync ahead of Limerick shows

As Danny Erskine directed a 30-strong rigging and technical team turning the University of Limerick Sports Arena into a massive theatre, Mary Sheahan employed age-old darning needle and ironing skills on much-travelled garments.

Backstage troupe for ‘Riverdance’  in perfect sync ahead of Limerick shows

Riverdance is in town and all the stops are being pulled out so everything will be spot on when the seven show-run opens for Limerick City of Culture next Thursday.

Mr Erskine, the 26-year-old production stage manager said: “Thursday will be the first time we will have the full cast here. We will have a full technical and dress rehearsal. There will be one shot at it.

We have to turn a sports venue into a theatre, which has many challenges. We have to turn changing rooms for swimmers and athletes into comfortable dressing rooms for the performers.”

The arena’s flooring posed an engineering conundrum for the stage management staff.

“The floor is not on concrete as it is a basketball arena and there is a spring in the floor and that affects the weight you can put on it,” said Mr Erskine. “We have had to distribute the weight of the stage and its positioning had to be given a lot of thought.

“The biggest weight the stage will have to hold is when all the performers are on stage for the finale, all in unison coming down on the stage with heavy shoes.

“It’s a massive impact. So there was a lot of engineering thought put into how the safest way to build the stage, its like an army marching over a small bridge.”

The sell-out of the six shows led to a seventh being added at 4pm on Saturday — between the 1pm matinee and 8pm evening show. And this has added to the logistical task.

“It will be tough on the cast and crew. We will finish the 1pm show at 3.15pm on Saturday and we will have get 2,500 people out and another 2,500 in for the 4pm show in less than 45 minutes,” explained Mr Erskine.

“Performers will have to change into fresh costumes and we will have to bring in food backstage as there won’t be time to leave to venue to dine. They will be eating on the go and getting straight back on. But it’s a great way to start our 20th anniversary tour as it is a proper, wake-up call.”

Ms Sheahan, a wardrobe supervisor is busy repairing and ironing costumes.

Along with her full-time assistant, Eimear Farrell, and local, part-time assistant Laura Ryan from Cappamore, she inspects every costume. “We work using the old reliable ironing board and we start ironing and steaming.

“Anything from travel usually takes a bit of a hit and can be quite creased. So the first thing we do is get everything washed and ironed and then we sort our repairs. We have up to 250 items of costume in the show at any one time.

“We have 14 female Irish dancers, 11 male dancers and we have feature dancers such as tappers, flamencos, and a band. So our troupe would have an average of seven costumes each.”

The Riverdance backroom squad are working to the limit to ensure Bill Whelan, its composer and a Freeman of Limerick, fulfils his promise to bring home his masterpiece to acclaim.

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