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Cast fail to scale heights in Friel tale

Review: Dancing at Lughnasa, Lyric Theatre

By Grania McFadden

Published 29/08/2015

The Lyric Theatre
The Lyric Theatre

It's 25 years since Brian Friel's achingly moving story of the Mundy sisters was first staged. Set in Donegal, it tells the story of the five unmarried women over one sunlit summer in 1936, as the hair cracks of change creep through the foundations of their lives.

Michael (Charlie Bonner), the son of youngest sister Christina, is our guide to the past, recalling the two pivotal events of his childhood - the arrival of a Marconi wireless into his aunts' home, and the return from Africa of his missionary uncle.

Director Annabelle Comyn's cast don't quite realise the heartbreaking highs and lows of Friel's writing, which transposes us to that misty place between fact and memory.

But there's a fine performance from Cara Kelly, whose Maggie - the heart of the home - is full of warmth and easy humour. And Declan Conlon's dignified Fr Jack eschews (thankfully) the role's comedic possibilities. This lyrical play's strongest moments come when music and dance transcend words: when Gerry whirls Chrissie around the garden; Fr Jack steps out in an African dance and that moment when the sisters transform into whirling dervishes, expressing all the longing they can never give voice to.

The production is still a little short on the wild abandon and gnawing despair experienced by the sisters, which are found in the gaps between the words.

Three stars

Belfast Telegraph

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