On the Rocks Interview: Dancing at Lughnasa

What does an audience of Dancing at Lughnasa have in store for them? Carly: What isn’t in store?  …A central theme in the play is poverty. For this reason (and […]


What does an audience of Dancing at Lughnasa have in store for them?

Carly: What isn’t in store?

 …A central theme in the play is poverty. For this reason (and for any others), do you think it speaks to today’s recession generation, despite being set in the 1930’s?

Beth: I really don’t like to think of it as a play about poverty. Obviously their circumstances are shaped by it, but it’s not a pity party. It’s about love, loss, discontent, joy, family, religion, community, chickens, music, memory – life, basically.

Sam: If anything, I think this play is as relevant as ever. It’s set in 1936 but it was written in 1990, when the Troubles were still on-going, because Friel wanted to comment on the state of Ireland without getting bogged down in the emotional hysteria. So it deals with a lot of the things that still affect Ireland (and in my view, Britain) today.

Florence: For instance, just last month the government issued an apology from the state for its complicity in the Magdalene Asylums. Those institutions have left deep scars on women’s lives and the attitudes that they sustained are something the characters in our play really struggle with.

Have you seen any previous productions of Dancing? Have you been trying to take a different approach?

Beth: I haven’t seen any other theatrical productions of Lughnasa (though there is a hilariously awful Spanish version on Youtube. I would give you the link but it is so bad I don’t want anyone to think ours resembles it in the slightest.) There’s a movie version with Streep and Gambon but it is quite sentimental, so I guess I wanted to steer clear of that – I don’t like telling an audience what to feel. It’s a character-driven piece so my approach has been making sure the characters are as fully formed and engaging as possible.

Are you generally a fan of Irish theatre, how do you think it’s different from English or American theatre for instance?

Beth: There is no escaping Friel’s nationality in this play. Of course there’s all the political and religious stuff, but the spirit of the characters – the way they find the humour in a bad situation – I think is very Irish.

Has the cast been struggling at all with the Irish accents?

Beth: Yeah, but they’ve been working hard. The accents are actually Northern Irish (Donegal is politically South but geographically north) so we had our lovely friend Ashton from Carrickfergus come over and give us some training.

Charlie: Beth had worked with him on another Friel play, Translations, so both have been very helpful. I’m still a bit nervous about attempting a Donegal accent but I’ve been skyping Ashton for extra tuition.

It seems that five female characters dominate the stage. Do you feel like this was an apt play to put on in St Andrews, given the girl:boy ratio of the drama community?

Charlie: I think Dancing is always an apt play to put on but yes, it’s about time girls got to work together rather than fighting to play second prostitute to the left. Last year’s On the Rocks had very male-heavy casts so this is refreshing, especially as all the characters are very well developed.

David: Yes. I think we are very privileged to have so many talented actresses in this town. It’s frustrating that we have this great resource and yet it’s ignored. I find it kind of sad. Work with what you have, people!

‘Dancing’ goes up at the Barron at 7.30pm on April 11th & 12th. Tickets can be purchased on the door or at the On the Rocks box office at Our Story on Bell Street.