Dancing at Lughnasa: The Director’s View

We caught up with director Lisa Thomas and her cast during rehearsals last week to talk to her about SLT’s production of Brian Friel’s, Dancing at Lughnasa which opens next week.

What made you choose to direct this play?

I have always loved this play. I saw the original Abbey Theatre production on its transfer to the National many years ago. When I was looking for a play with a number of strong women’s roles I suddenly thought of this and felt it would be very rewarding for the cast – each of the Mundy sisters is beautifully defined – and a pleasure for the audience.

What kind of themes are explored in it?

Dancing at Lughnasa looks at what it was like to be an unmarried woman in the rural Ireland of the 1930s and the narrow range of ways that women were able to earn a living. It looks at different views of morality – both that of the Catholic Church and of the society of the time – and also how we are constrained by those – or conversely decide to ignore them or break from them as Father Jack and Gerry Evans do – and to some extent Christina has done. It’s about the importance of family and how we define that and how love can be expressed in many different ways.

What do you think will resonate with audiences?

I think audiences will be moved by the way that each of the sisters chooses to deal with their individual situations and the closeness and humour that binds them. I think they will be fascinated by Father Jack’s rejection of his long-held faith and his enthusiastic embrace of the very different religion that he has found at his posting in Africa. I think they will be charmed by the various dances from which the play gets its name.

What have been the challenges in directing the play?

We’ve had to try to find a way to achieve an approximation of the Donegal accent which is quite specific – with a cast of English and Irish actors – neither of whom are from Donegal and also hope that it sounds as if they are from the same family. We’ve had to bring out the humour of the play and also the underlying tragedy of some of the characters.

Who’s in the cast?

The cast is a mixture of SLT stalwarts including Cal Beckett, Naomi Liddle, Derek Dempsey, Catherine Ellis Raku-Evans and Jason Salmon, who are joined by two new members, Roisín Deady and Eugene Duffy, and second-timer Amy Flinders, who last appeared at SLT in When We Are Married.


‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ opens next Tuesday and plays in the Upper Hall at Stanley Halls, March 21-25. Tickets are available here.