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Reviews Roundup: DANCING AT LUGHNASA by Brian Friel

News Theatre

From left, Bláithín Mac Gabhann, Alison Oliver, Louisa Harland and Siobhán McSweeney in ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ © Johan Persson

Like many of Brian Friel’s plays, DANCING AT LUGHNASA is set in the fictional, close-knit County Donegal community of Ballybeg, presenting a portrait of the lives of five sisters – Kate, Maggie, Agnes, Rosie and Christina – during the late summer of 1936. It was a hit when it premiered at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in 1990, when it transferred to the National Theatre the following year, and when it arrived on Broadway soon after. This major revival on the Olivier Stage at the National Theatre is directed by Josie Rourke, with design by Robert Jones.

Brian Friel‘s seminal play remains an “elegiac, intoxicating” masterpiece, according to Andrzej Lukowski (TimeOut, ★★★★). It is a “magnificent memory play” that is “full of emotion and power”, agrees Sarah Crompton (WhatsOnStage, ★★★★★), while Marianka Swain (London Theatre, ★★★★★) admires its “beautiful balance” of “sparkling comedy and almost unbearable poignancy”.

“It’s part Chekhovian and part Tennessee Williams-ish memory play,” writes Sam Marlowe (The Stage, ★★★★), noting its nods to both. “But its enchantment has a singular flavour, the homespun in harmony with the rich and strange; it is about nothing less than the vast mystery of life.”

The ensemble cast- made up of Siobhan McSweeney, Louisa Harland, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Justine Mitchell, Alison Oliver, Ardal O’Hanlon, and Tom Riley – are “exemplary” for Lukowski, “spellbinding” for Swain, “glorious” for Crompton and “exquisite” for Arifa Akbar (Guardian, ★★★★). “This is a true ensemble piece,” chimes Marlowe, and all the performances are “terrific”. (Source: The Stage)

The production also received Five-star accolades from Libby Purves and The Sunday Times, as well as multiple other four-star reviews from The Financial Times, The Observer, Gay Times and Metro. The production runs until 27th May at the National Theatre. Tickets are available here.

The Estate of Brian Friel is represented by Simon Blakey at The Agency.

Published: 27th April 2023