Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa was first performed in 1990 at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. Twenty three years later, Royal & Derngate, Northampton have wheeled it out to go on tour. This is the production's second stop, after playing Northampton for three weeks.
Set in August 1936, we follow the progress of five sisters as they watch the gradual collapse of traditional values and the parting of the ways. Strongly led by Michele Moran as the standard bearer for traditionalism. I was particularly taken by the portrayals of Zoe Rainey's Christina and Grainne Keenan's Agnes.
Naomi Dawson's design serves the stage well, however is let down by Richard Beecham's ploddy direction - several moments exist where one character blocks another or entire conversations appear to take place half in the wings. This is not aided by the writing, I defy any director to make a sisterly jig seem natural and in keeping with a demure style for the rest of the play.
The key problem comes from the book itself, there is little attempt at narrative nor established plot. Neither myself nor my guest could ascertain anything of note in the interval which had occured in the first half.
Others, more familiar with the piece, gave it high praise. This speaks to a lack of clarity within the production.
This production was an admirable attempt in many ways, however fell by a lack of narrative or strong direction.