Review of Open Space production of Dancing at Lughnasa

Brain Freil’s play Dancing at Lughnasa is an uncompromising examination of how poverty so often leads to the stagnation of already challenged lives. If that sounds like a grim way to spend a couple of hours, then credit is due to director David Green and his talented cast for presenting such a moving portrait of a family on the edge of misfortune.

Mia Chadwick’s understated performance of the matriarchal Kate a perfectly judged hub around which other characters could turn. Cathy Edwards-Gill offered up an unusually whimsical take on Maggie, the determinably good humoured sister, while Emma Martin was forever looking for love just over the horizon. Together with Hannah Gardiner and Frances Lamb, this was a powerful and ensemble performance of five sisters that Peter Sowerbutts, Darren France and Joe Edwards-Gill were only ever going to manoeuvre around the edge of.

With its stately pace and predicable trajectory, Friel’s play has not aged well, which only makes it all the more remarkable that through a combination of solid acting and nifty direction, Open Space squeezed what they did from it, and did so with such commitment and authenticity.

By David Vass