REVIEW: Dancing at Lughnasa, Maddermarket

Dancing at Lughnasa, a play by Brian Friel and performed by Norwich Players, had its opening night on Friday at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich.

The action takes place in Donegal, a remote corner of rural Eire, on a warm day in August 1936. It centres on the five Mundy sisters, the aunts and mother of seven-year-old Michael, in the house they all share near the small town of Ballybeg.

Life is very simple, the sisters live a hard but on the surface a satisfying life. The outside world is brought into their lives with a radio they nickname Marconi.

While Marconi’s battery lasts, the sisters enjoy music, dancing and the popular songs of the day. They are enthusiastic dancers and need little prompting to fling with joyous abandonment around the small kitchen. Then, two men come back into the quiet lives of the Mundy sisters РFather Jack, the priest who is their older brother and has been in Uganda for most of the lives of the sisters and, briefly, Gerry the father of Michael. Lughnasa is the name of the celebrations surrounding the bringing of the harvest home.

It has pagan roots mixed in with the rituals of the Catholic church, with which they conflict. The story of the action is strung together by the older Michael , Philip Rowe, who narrates from his memory of the time but as he also knows what the future held for all the characters its tinged with sadness and some regret. Altogether an unusual production which had us thinking about events long after the evening had ended. Well done Norwich Players a sensitive portrayal of an unusual drama.

Kevin and Sandra Stone

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