Uncle Ray, Dublin Theatre Festival 2021 – Pavilion Theatre, Dublin

Reviewer Laura Marriott


Choreographer and Creator: David Bolger

Dancers: David Bolger and Donking Rongavilla

Nearly all of us see The Wizard of Oz as a child. This beloved classic tale has a place in many a heart, however for David Bolger it means more than it does to most. Each Christmas, on his black and white TV that could only access two channels so long as the hanger attached to the back was twisted into the just right diamond shape, he would watch in awe as the scarecrow, with little to do except wait for his destiny to change, was vividly brought to life and there, on the screen was his Uncle Ray.

Uncle Ray takes us back to a childhood lived through the magic of tv. As David would watch in black and white and then glorious technicolour as his uncle Raymond Bolger danced his way into the heart of Broadway and Hollywood, across the world another child was staring in awe at the television set. Donking Rongavilla would avidly watch his own father; stuntman and action film star Rommel Valdez. Although he wanted to follow directly in his father’s footsteps, Valdez wanted his son to join the army. Do fathers want their children to be just like them? At the same time we hear of David’s parents, his father a man of stories and ideas who it seems could never live up to the magical uncle in David’s eyes.

Like many others, CoisCéim have made the show available to online audiences. The recording was made at the Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, and retains as much of the freshness and emotion of the live performance as a recording can. The recording was well done, capturing the essence of the performance and keeping sight of the performers at all times; giving a good idea of how the stage was used and traversed. CoisCéim are known for their intricate and engaging dance works, and this shone through in Uncle Ray. Donking Rongavilla is primarily a street dancer. His movements sharper and often coming from his core, like the feeling had to work its way through him. This was in contrast to the gentler, more fluid movements of David. Their different brands of dance fit well together thanks to the choreography and dedication to telling the story. For both performers Uncle Ray feels like an intensely personal work.

An early sequence in which David interacts with a tv, pulling out items, reaching into the screen and so on, draw on the razzle dazzle of his uncle, as well as the innovative way of presenting dance that CoisCéim are known for. The sequences in which the pair just danced were fluid, engrossing and just lovely. Throughout clever illusions were made Raymond’s career and the audience were left wondering how much one is influenced by father figures. Uncle Ray is an engaging work of dance and storytelling that stands out in the memory.

Reviewed on 17 October 2021

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The Ireland team is currently under the editorship of Laura Marriott. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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