Dancing at Lughnasa

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Sewell Barn, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Atmosphere is more real than incident, says one of the characters towards the end of Bryan Frield's Irish drama, and it is true.

Nostalgia laced with blarney, the sorrows of poor folk interrupted for a wild jig, and to make the mix more interesting, past present and future all stirred into a portrait of life in Donegal.

The date is 1936, and the old ways are giving way to new. It is the season for blueberries, and soda bread is still staple fare. But the magic of Marconi is bringing music into the cottage, and Wild Woodbines, at a penny a cigarette, are becoming a welcome luxury.

Beyond the peat bog there is a wilder world, with the Spanish Civil War to be fought.

Comings and goings are part of the situation, and Father Jack – played with a mesmerising self-absorption by Terry Dabbs – shows what can go wrong with attempts to export Christianity to Africa.

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On a more everyday level, Noel Jones makes Michael a compelling presence. Never visible in the action, he provides the commentary that shapes the dilemma and expresses the deepest feelings, balancing humour and regret in just the right proportions.

A splendid quintet of girls – Jean Kiekoph Angela Goymer, Karen Ewing, Elena Hewitt and Gemma Morris – make up the household full of strongly-joined characters. Claire Howard is the director of this intriguing play with all its laughs and its moments of sorrow.

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