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REVIEW: Dancing At Lughnasa, Lyric Theatre

Actresses Mary Murray, Cara Kelly, Catherine Cusack

HAVING not seen the box office adaptation of this play all I had to go on was the synopsis provided on all the marketing material.

And I have to say, for me, that’s definitely the best way to see a play.

Especially one like this, written by the wonderful Northern Ireland writer Brian Friel.

I knew the play had won a coveted Olivier Award and prestigious Tony Award, I knew that Meryl Streep starred in the box office hit and the story’s reputation preceded it.

Actresses Catherine McCormack, Vanessa Emme, Catherine Cusack, Cara Kelly, Mary Murray

Actresses Catherine McCormack, Vanessa Emme, Catherine Cusack, Cara Kelly, Mary Murray

To say I was excited to see this play is an understatement.

Set in County Donegal in 1936 during the Celtic harvest festival of Lughnasadh, the play tells the story of the five Mundy sisters and their brother Jack, who has returned home from the missions after 25 years away.

25 years since the play premiered in Dublin, this version is directed by Annabelle Comyn (an award winner herself) in association with the Lughnasa International Friel Festival.

Speaking of the play she said: “It is a truly wonderful play.

“At its heart, Dancing at Lughnasa is an internal dialogue that seeks to understand and release the past.”

As we entered the theatre, set designer Paul O’Mahony, lighting designer Chahine Yavroyan and sound designer Fergus O’Hare along with actor Charlie Bonner who plays the character of Michael Evans immersed us in the play before we had even taken to our seats.

Actor Charlie Bonner

Actor Charlie Bonner

Charlie’s wonderful narration and commentary coupled with memory recollection dialogue was an interesting and intriguing aspect of the production.

When it came to the women, who formed the heart of the storyline, each actress was a strong representation of her character – fully committed to their role – all portrayed their personalities and quirks with vigour and vibrancy.

Actress Mary Murray

Actress Mary Murray

Mary Murray’s portrayal of Rose Mundy for me was a stand-out performance. She was believable and authentic in a role that couldn’t have been easy to do with such empathy for Rose’s mental and intellectual challenges.

Actress Cara Kelly

Actress Cara Kelly

Cara Kelly truly lived in her character Maggie Mundy’s skin, so much so, you could see the glint in her eye and joy in her face everytime Maggie took centre stage. Her comedic timing was fantastic and musicality genuine and raw.

Actress Catherine McCormack

Actress Catherine McCormack

When it came to bringing the strict school teacher and family provider Kate Mundy to life, actress Catherine McCormack did such a fantastic job that I actually came to intensely dislike her for her absolute fanatical resolve.

Actress Catherine Cusack

Actress Catherine Cusack

Catherine Cusack delivered her character Agnes Mundy with a demure strength that made it very clear that despite being the quietest of the Mundy sisters deep down Agnes was in fact a force to be reckoned with and a fierce protector of Rose.

Actress Vanessa Emme

Actress Vanessa Emme

Vanessa Emme stepped into the role of dreamer Christina Mundy, willing to believe anything for a chance at love. Vanessa combined the vulnerability of a woman in love with the power of a protective mother to bring a very real portrayal of her character to the stage.

Actor Declan Conlon

Actor Declan Conlon

My favourite performance of the night has to be that of Declan Conlon as the eccentric Father Jack Mundy. Without giving the game away for those who don’t know what the story is about Declan’s ability to raise the questions surrounding paganism throughout the show verbally and physically and his superb use of language, diction and phonetics made his character almost addictive.

Matt Tait

Actor Matt Tait

Of course no production would be complete without the jester and Matt Tait gave the character of Gerry Evans a lovable rogue quality that had us wanting to both rescue him from himself and choke him half to death. This foolish dreamer brings a fantastic narration of life outside Ballybeg to the show.

A nod must be given to Liz Roche, who’s choreography both in the dancing scenes and in the scene changeovers was beautifully fluid and authentic.

Actresses Cara Kelly, Catherine Cusack, Vanessa Emme, Catherine McCormack

Actresses Cara Kelly, Catherine Cusack, Vanessa Emme, Catherine McCormack

All in all this is a must see show. If nothing else you will leave the auditorium with a lot of questions on your mind and food for a lot of discussion thereafter.

Dancing at Lughnasa runs until September 27 at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. For more information log onto www.lyrictheatre.co.uk.

To catch the last few days of the Lughnasa International Friel Festival log onto www.lughnasainternationalfrielfestival.com.

Actresses Vanessa Emme, Cara Kelly, Mary Murray

Actresses Vanessa Emme, Cara Kelly, Mary Murray

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About Tina Calder (114 Articles)
Journalist specialising in showbiz, entertainment, business, trade, human interest and lifestyle.

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