Brian Friel’s work is appraised by Sophie Lioe
Dramsoc’s decision to tackle what is arguably one of Brian Friel’s most demanding plays, Dancing at Lughnasa, could from the outset seem like an ambitious one. Set in 1930’s Donegal, the play depicts the intense solitude and universal hopelessness felt by many Irish families at the time, expressed through the dynamics of the relationships between the five Mundy sisters as they are forced to deal with the onset of the delayed arrival of the industrial revolution to rural Ireland, along with their reunion with their beloved brother who returns from the missionaries in Africa with somewhat less of the Christian mindset with which he initially left 25 years previously.
Generating the correct atmosphere is one of the most important elements in this play, and in this case the cast managed to create intense atmospheric silences that perfectly relayed the poignancy of the moments to their full effect. Solid and understated, yet thoroughly convincing performances from each cast member ensured that the individual personality of each sister shone through, while the interactions with each other left the audience convinced of the integral family bonds which hold each of Friel’s ideas together.
The explosive moments of short-lived euphoria in the Mundy household are, in fact, as strong as the moments of despair, and the cast effectively created brief windows of light heartedness which were much needed to give the audience a brief emotional break and lift the intense depressive mood momentarily. I even found myself completely caught up in the dancing scene between Chrissie and Gerry, wishing someone would sweep me off my feet in a 1930s fashion!
As the lights went down on the final scene, the resoluteness of the ending left behind an atmosphere which still carried the strong sense of the solitude and despair evident throughout the play. Dramsoc’s effort will move even the most hard-hearted of theatre goers.