Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Review: Dancing at Lughnasa

Dancing at Lughnasa
Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This play is adapted from a novel, and it shows. Such a process involves losing the narrative of a novel, which then needs to be replaced by something theatrical. Brian Friel hasn't done that. He simply fills in the gaps by having the young boy Michael narrate large chunks of narrative, presumably pasted from the novel itself, without adding anything dramatic.

So, for the first hour we are presented with the five sisters picking at the scabs of their own boredom and frustration. This is exceptionally dull. There is some fine humour in the middle third, especially when the slightly deranged Jack regales the sisters with stories of his time in Uganda, showing himself to have gone native and become virtually pagan, before Michael is awkwardly brought back to tell us the ending of the story long before the end of the play.

From the lyricism of the prose, I suspect that Dancing At Lughnasa is a very good novel. But it's a poor play, constantly struggling against the dramatic genre instead of embracing it.

The pagan spirits of ancient Ireland are evoked, and I can hear the play itself pleading to them, saying, "Please, turn me back into a novel."

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