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Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel Dir Anna Mackmin. The Old Vic.

This is a fantastic play and it was a privilege to see it in the round at Kevin Spacey’s Old Vic, the American artistic director has revitalised quality theatre in this country with a string of successes and bringing big name actors such as Jeff Goldblum and Colm Meany to the West End (well, Waterloo actually).


Brian Friels’ play is set in 1930’s Donegal where five sisters live seemingly ostracised with only the illegitimate son of Christina (Andrea Corr) and their rather bonkers, and in disgrace Priest for a brother (Peter MacDonald) as company.


The sisters live in splendid isolation but the pent up repressions of such a life become apparent, and the interactions, although seemingly full of fun are laden with frustration at what might have been.


Intolerance is a major them of this piece as the idea of going to a dance appeals to all the women, and they plan furiously what they will wear, and dance around the kitchen to the radio, but ultimately they know it will never happen, and the dream comes to naught as they know what the community’s reaction to a family with such a pedigree, and a sister with special needs, will be.


Niamh Cusack was absolutely top draw as second eldest, Maggie and here lies the problem.


Cusack was so darn good that the others (especially Corr) couldn’t match her, and the pace in the second part of Act One fell noticeably when she wasn’t on stage. In addition the men as a whole didn’t really work that well and I was a little disappointed with the piece overall but such is the strength of the writing it was still well worth seeing.


Monday night can be a bit funny in the theatre, as although the place was virtually full the audience weren’t quick to participate so maybe the cast were having an off night as people after a day at work, the first one of the week are more likely to want just to be entertained.


 Nevertheless this is a worthwhile play, which has plenty to say in our era, especially if the bigoted Tory Party is returned to power.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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