I went to see a production of Dancing at Lughnasa, Brian Friel’s play, by the Second Age at the Everyman Palace Theatre. This is the second Friel’s play I have seen and I actually preferred Lovers, which I found more poignant. However, the show was a full two and half hours of good entertainment.
This is another of those Irish plays I was discussing in a previous post and one can get sick of those typical Irish themes being overly dealt with. Yet, I thought that those themes were not in your face. The play evokes the Ireland of the mid 1930’s but in a subtle manner.
The story is that of a grown-up man, Michael, who remembers the summer of 1936; that summer when his mother and her four spinster sisters were dancing to the sound of their first wireless radio, when Father Jack, his uncle, had just come back from spending years in Uganda and was finding it difficult to reacclimatise to Western society and the Catholic religion of which he is a representative. This was also the last summer when the family was reunited and his father (who never married his mother) came to visit twice, thus allowing him to witness the happiness of his mother.
Although the play has as its background the poverty of living in the countryside in Donegal, it does not focus on these issues but depicts how the five sisters make everyday life enjoyable. There are some sad revelations during the play, but it never delves on them. It is an enjoyable play, which is well acted. I particularly liked Father Jack, but all five sisters were also admirable, each in their own way. I also liked the way Michael, the little boy, did not appear in the play, except as a grown up man narrating the story and speaking the few lines necessary for his presence as a boy, thus making him stand as an observer rather than as a participant of that summer of 1936.
This play was made into a film, but I think the play is more successful, the personality of each protagonist being more accentuated in the play. Here is the trailer of the film: