When we heard about the Toy Show, we looked it up, and we found a great deal of internet buzz for it. It was sold as "a yearly Irish Christmas institution, one of the most-watched shows every year in Ireland." Families gather to watch the show together when it is shown live at the end of November and again when it is rebroadcast closer to Christmas. Being in Ireland, we are able to access the replay of the show on the RTE website, so we tuned in to see what it was all about, and learned a lot.
The show is performed and broadcast live in front of a studio audience of all adults (awesome!) The stage set is stacked floor-to-ceiling with toys and Christmas decorations. They kicked off the show with a big Mary Poppins-themed musical number with the show host and dozens of kids singing and dancing to the delight of the Christmas-clad studio audience, and no doubt kids across the nation. The host, Ryan, began his monologue by welcoming Irish viewers living abroad back home for a little bit of the Homeland. Personally, that spoke volumes to me as an American expat. This show clearly has a lot of meaning to the people here and would be a great way for the large number of Irish people living in America, Canada, Europe, Australia to feel a little bit of home in their new lands.
Much of the two-hour show from there gives us a preview of the most popular new toys of the season. Sometimes the toys are demonstrated by the adult host, but are mostly demonstrated to the host by Irish children from all over the country. Often, after introducing a new toy, the host announces to the ecstatic studio audience, "...And every one of you in the audience gets one of these, too!" We couldn't resist making Oprah Favorite Things jokes...
"...And you get a car! And you get a car!"
The show also found time to feature children from all over Ireland performing their talents. What an honor it must have been for all of the performing kids and groups to showcase their work on such a popular show. There were student artists, singers, dancers, musicians, and others mixed in between toy and game demos.
Speaking of kids from all over the country, we were quite interested to hear the different accents as we met children and families from the far corners of Ireland. This may warrant another post in itself, but it bears mentioning here- Ireland has a wide range of different speech inflections for such small (comparatively) country. Ireland is a fraction of the size of Iowa, but Iowans all sound pretty much the same. Irish people have distinct speech patterns that connect them to their specific region, sometimes their specific County or town. We recognized the students from the Dublin metro area with their rapid cadence and softer consonants. We listened to a young lad from Kerry (in the West) tell a story with the well-known "Wesht" accent with s-sounds delightfully slurred into shh-sounds. One young girl (missed her location) spoke with one we have heard before but can't quite place, wherein A and E vowel sounds are shifted just slightly. "Clay" became "klee" and "character" was pronounced "Kee-YAR-acter." This diversity of language is really amazing and it really highlights the proud identities of each region and county of Ireland. Language diversity springs from isolation, and this same diversity is eroded with homogenization and blending. Good for you, Ireland, for keeping the cultural and linguistic identities of your counties and regions.
The highlight of the night, and maybe the highlight of the universe, was this little man. He was part of the new video game demonstration line. He was showing the host how to play the newest FIFA soccer game on XboxONE. The host gives a lot of setup asking the young lad to talk about his favorite (and least favorite!) Soccer players. When the boy says he wishes he could meet his favorite soccer hero in person, well, just watch...
What a touching clip. We are so glad we were able to watch this before it expired on the RTE player. Next year, we may try to catch it live on the web, as we hear tickets for the event are very difficult to come by. Thanks again, Lord Stilton, for the tip. Happy holidays and happy shopping!