Theatre News

Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa opens new season at TBL, Keswick

The Brian Friel classic opens the Spring Season at Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake

The cast of Dancing at Lughnasa in Keswick
The cast of Dancing at Lughnasa in Keswick
© Steven Barber Photography Ltd

The Theatre by the Lake’s spring production, Dancing at Lughnasa, is the next to be staged at the Keswick venue later this month.

The play, written by acclaimed Irish writer Brian Friel, won four major awards for Best Play when it was first performed – including both the Olivier and Tony awards. It also appears on the National Theatre’s list of the best plays of the 20th century.

Lughnasa, pronounced "Loo-nah-sah", is an ancient pagan harvest festival. In Ireland it’s traditionally a time for dancing and courtship, with couples pairing off to walk in the hills and pick bilberries.

Friel’s play follows five sisters through the festival of Lughnasa in the summer of 1936. They are all unmarried – very unusual for that time – and live in rural Donegal with their young nephew Michael, the "lovechild" (as he’s referred to in the play) of sister Chris.

Michael’s father, Gerry, is a loveable but unreliable Welshman who occasionally appears with promises of marriage to Chris and a bike to Michael – both of which fail to materialise.

The sisters are also unsettled by the arrival of their brother Jack, who has been working as a missionary in Uganda for 25 years. He’s not the devout Christian man they remember; he’s acquired some beliefs and customs in his years away that don’t go down well in their small Catholic community.

Dancing at Lughnasa is based on Friel’s own experiences and it is directed by Mary Papadima, whose production of An Inspector Calls in 2013 was the most popular in the summer season. She also helmed A Doll’s House, for the company last summer.

TBL regulars Laura Darrall, Roger Delves-Broughton, Ben Ingles and Isabella Marshall star. These actors were all in Keswick as recently as last November, performing in the theatre’s summer season of six plays.

Dancing at Lughnasa opens on 28 March – 19 April.