Brimming with energy and radiant with good health, the four Siamsa Tíre performers who welcome us to their temporary home on Eustace Street seem almost too pure to be true. It is hard to remain cynical, though, when you're sharing tea and lemon drizzle cake. As the representatives of the National Folk Theatre speak informally of their repertoire, deliver songs as casually and proudly as party pieces and gingerly trace step dances from armchairs, we are treated like guests for a discreet display of tradition. What is surprising, is that this gentle introduction soon becomes an unbridled release of genuine feeling.
Those expecting director Jo Mangan to serve a Tralee institution's history with some irreverent twee-cutters for the uninitiated (such as a jig performed against a drum 'n' bass track, perhaps) may be surprised to discover the assured hand of a therapist. As we move around the house, talk to the engaging performers and slip between tales of the new excesses of competitive feiseanna, the injuries of a lifetime of step dancing and – yes – a rather exciting jig performed against a drum ‘n’ bass track, the display moves stealthily towards intimate documentary theatre.
That form is often marked by self-awareness and dispassion; but as the group speaks, seemingly natural and unbidden, of loneliness, the day their dancing will end, and their shared grief at the death of the company manager and father figure Martin Whelan, an uncommon sincerity stops us in our tracks. It is brave and illuminating, a good-humoured and moving tribute to the support and kinship of real folk.