'Dancing at Lughnasa' from Ballyduff Drama Group


‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ from Ballyduff Drama Group

A radio called Marconi is a vital character in Brian Friel’s memory drama ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ being staged by Ballyduff Drama Group.

Thursday, 28 February 2013
12:00 AM GMT

A radio called Marconi is a vital character in Brian Friel’s memory drama ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’, as five unmarried sisters in rural Donegal county in 1936 struggle to survive and take care of each other and the vulnerable members of their family, while the world around them changes swiftly and ominously. As the sisters work, the music on their new luxury, a radio, enables them to periodically dance and dream.

Critic John Lahr has said about the play that “Friel’s enormous accomplishment in ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ is to flush out from the humdrum struggles of daily life a sense of wonder and to make the sacramental felt”. This production opens in Ballyduff on this Friday, 1st March at 8.15pm.  

Set in rural Ireland in the summer of 1936, the play evokes a tension between Christianity and Paganism and is conveyed through the eyes of seven-year old Michael (played by Courtney Canning), the youngest sister’s love child, who observes his aunts and mother simultaneously liberated and corrupted by the radio in the family kitchen. The sisters dance around the kitchen and in the garden, and one character, a retired missionary, reflects on dance as ‘the offering, the ritual, a ceremony’.

Director Ger Canning tries to listen to the rhythms of the play carefully and imaginatively, creating a subtle play of tension and release. The dialogue’s rhythm is informed by the working lives of the sisters. The tedium of their daily lives pushes them to seek joy and release in dancing and music. The Mundy sisters dance “as if language no longer existed because words were no longer necessary”. Maggie ‘the joker of the family’ is played by Dolores Dermody while Kate (the national schoolteacher) is beautifully and subtly portrayed by Valerie O’Leary. Kate Canning and Laura Griseti combine sensitivity, warmth and love in the characters of Agnes and Rose. Father Jack or ‘Uncle Jack’ as Michael calls him, returns from Ryanga in Uganda after 25 years but never receives the anticipated civic reception. Brendan Dunlea brings his own distinctive stamp to this role. Laura Kennedy as Chris and Lochlainn McKenna as the Welshman who steals her heart, completes this talented cast.

Set design is in the capable hands of James Ahearn. This set designer has, over the years, captured our imaginations and prompted our thoughts (‘Mice and Men’ and more recently ‘The Crucible’). In designing the landscape for this production, Ahearn along with Canning, will evoke Brian Friel’s interior and exterior landscape of the individual, family and Irish society of 1936.

With two seats for the price of one, get to Ballyduff on Friday night and capture the pure joy and sadness that is ‘Dancing at Lughanasa’.


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