The warm Irish sun thaws the harshness of life on the impoverished Mundy family smallholding just as the gradual reveal at the start of the play gently brings each of the characters into our consciousness.
Victoria Carling (Kate), Patricia Gannon (Maggie), Mairead Conneely (Agnes) and Siobhan Oâ€™Kelly (Christina) in Dancing at Lughnasa at the Haymarket, Basingstoke Photo: Jack Ladenburg
The diverse personalities of the Mundy sisters are beautifully drawn with Victoria Carling as the older dictatorial sibling whose suffocating superiority is bred out of duty and love while Bronagh Taggart as Rose is delightfully refreshing with her uncomplicated and childlike simplicity.
Mairead Conneely is the tenacious Agnes whose dogged reticence hides her desperation to release her inhibitions and Patricia Gannon’s Maggie is an unleashed mixture of joyous verve and spirited camaraderie.
Siobhan O’Kelly as Christina waits longingly for the occasional return of her son’s absent father, who is played with capricious spontaneity by Paul Westwood, and Daragh O’Malley is Father Jack, returned from Africa as the eponymous example of the Irish yearning at the time to spread their wings and experience other cultures.
Alastair Whatley directs the production with sincerity whilst inviting us into the lives of the Mundy sisters in the role of Christina’s grown-up son Michael who recalls the events of his childhood as the voyeuristic narrator.
This is an excellent revival of Brian Friel’s play, performed with delicate sensitivity and nostalgic reality, and Lucie Pankhurst’s earthy choreography is perfectly executed to express and release the tensions which threaten to implode within this family unit.