Thursday 13th July to Saturday 15th July and Tuesday 18th July to Saturday 22nd July 1995
Directed by David Penrose
It is 1936 and harvest time in Ballybeg, County Donegal. The Mundy sisters just about keep themselves and the farm together, bringing up young Michael without much help from his feckless charmer of a dad and nursing Uncle Jack - home at last from his missionary work in Africa. They keep the old festivals, pagan and Christian alike, and dance the old dances. Only the radio is new, and what a mixed blessing that is, bringing bad news, new dances - and a changing world to Ballybeg.
Set in the fictional town of Ballybeg, 'Dancing at Lughnasa' is loosely based on the lives of Friel's mother and aunts who lived in the Glenties, on the west coast of Donegal. The play takes place in early August 1936, around the festival of Lughnasa, in Celtic folklore. This is the festival of the first fruits, when the harvest is welcomed and play depicts the late summer days when love briefly seems possible for three of the Mundy sisters (Chris, Rose, and Kate) and the family welcomes home the frail elder brother, who has returned from a life as missionary in Africa. However, as the summer ends, the family foresees the sadness and economic privations under which they will suffer as all hopes fade. The play describes a bitter harvest for the Mundy sisters, a time of reaping what has been sown. There is a sense that the close home life the women have known since childhood is about to be torn apart.
The play was written in 1990 and has won numerous awards including Evening Standard, New York Drama Critics' Circle, Olivier and Tony Awards. 'Dancing at Lughnasa' was also adapted in to a film in 1998 starring Meryl Streep.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Stage Manager||Lindy Nettleton|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Zoë Corrigan|
|Lighting Design||Steve Wilkins|
|Lighting Operation||Gemma Harding|
|Sound engineer||Steve Dunning|
|Sound operator||Chris Stacey|
|Set Design||David Penrose|
|Set Construction||Tim Taylor|
|Publicity||John O'Hanlon |
|Front of House||Lindy Nettleton|
There's obviously something about dancing that frees the spirit - whether you're a tribal African or Irish Catholic in a pagan dance. What strikes home in Bench Theatre's compelling production of Dancing at Lughnasa is the similarity of spiritual experience worldwide. From befuddled colonial-come-home Jack to starchy churchgoer Kate, the family portrayed in this haunting piece all find release in the exhilaration of dance.
The backdrop is the Irish festival of Lughnasa in the 1930s, but it bears a remarkable similarity to ceremonies Jack knows from his years in Uganda. Those playing all five sisters are perfectly cast and utterly convincing - in performance and dialect. The minutiae of domestic life in pre-war Ireland is also expertly reproduced in an impressive set that could have been lifted straight out of a Donegal homestead. And yes, for such a serious subject there are plenty of laughs - not least in the comedy of seeing how straight-laced Kate responds to talk of anything pagan.
The News, 14th July 1995