Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa is an examination of the workings and personal politics of a family unit set in rural Ireland of the 1930’s.
The Mundy family, upon which the narrative revolves around, is controlled by five women; all very different in personality and attitude.
Friel’s characters provide an interesting look at the many roles and positions these females take within the household; be it mother, enforcer, or free spirit. It is interesting to also consider that the female protagonists within the story are loose interpretations of the authors own Mother and Aunts, perhaps giving insight into how the playwright witnessed the assumed positions of family members within his own household, and how they can take so many shapes and forms.
The ensemble of women in Tamara Harvey’s production do a fine job in bringing the various colours of their characters personalities to life. Siobhan McSweeny is particularly engaging in her portrayal of burly and boisterous Maggie, whilst Fiona O’Shaughnessy’s Rose is touchingly innocent without being overly sweet.
The device the playwright has created in making Michael, one of the women’s sons, a narrator speaking in the past tense works well and is delivered particularly well and naturalistically by Barry Ward in this particular production.
Colin Richmond’s design does a great job in evoking rural Ireland and thrusts the action into the audience’s laps. However, despite the close proximity between audience and action, the happenings still seem a little distant. Perhaps it is the setting in a by-gone era, or that some of the attitudes and values could be seen as dated, but somewhere an emotional connection with this interpretation gets a little lost thus meaning that the conclusion is sad, but not tragic.
Conclusively this is a well cast, well polished production but leaves one wanting more in terms the emotional journey it potentially could be.