The Play this time:
“Dancing at Lughnasa (1990)” by Brian Friel
This month's play, Dancing at Lughnasa, is one of the most highly regarded to come out of Ireland in the past 30 years. It is more accessible for our reading group than The Beauty Queen of Leenane Martin McDonagh's dark comedy, which is being presented at the Hong Kong Arts Festival this year. Dancing at Lughnasa, arguably Brian Friel's last major original work, won the 1992 Tony Award for Best Play, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Broadway Play and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play in the same year. The play is the story of five unmarried sisters eking out their lives in a small village in Ireland in l936; their ages range from 26 up to 40. We meet them at the time of the festival of Lughnasa, which celebrates the pagan god of the harvest with drunken revelry and dancing. Their spare existence is interrupted by brief, colorful bursts of music from the radio, their only link to the romance and hope of the world at large. The action of the play is told through the memory of the illegitimate son of one of the sisters as he remembers the five women who raised him, his mother and four maiden aunts. He is only seven in 1936, the year his elderly uncle, a priest, returns after serving for twenty-five years as a missionary in a Ugandan leper colony. For the young boy, two other disturbances occur that summer. The sisters acquire their first radio, whose music transforms them from correct Catholic women to shrieking, stomping banshees in their own kitchen. And he meets his father for the first time, a charming Welsh drifter who strolls up the lane and sweeps his mother away in an elegant dance across the fields. From these small events spring the cracks that destroy the foundation of the family forever. In depicting two days in the life of this ménage Brian Friel evokes not just a group of human beings trapped in their domestic situation but the wider landscape, interior and exterior, Christian and pagan, of which they are part. Commonly regarded as Brian Friel’s masterpiece, this haunting play is Friel’s tribute to the courageous spirit of the past. The New York Post described it as “no way a play to be missed — simply a wondrous experience. Experience it.”
Below is a copy of the script. We will bring a few copies in case anybody doesn't have it, but please download it to iPads/mobiles etc. or get your own printout. Thanks.
And, for your reference, a clip from the film which starred Meryl Streep:
Come and enjoy the play as a reading. All welcome. There is no need to read if you don't wish to. If you prefer, you are welcome just to listen. However, all who wish to read will have the opportunity to do so.
Facilitators: Mike Ingham and Julian Quail.