Garden Suburb Theater in London presents: Dancing at Lughnasa by
The play is on 25-26-27 April at the Institute,
Central Square, Hampstead Garden Suburb.
Bus H2 from Golders Green or a
15-minute walk via Hoop Lane and Meadway. Tickets £6 (or £4.50 concessions),
more off for parties of 10+
Thanks to Tony Newton for the following
information about this production, and Michael Berg for the photos.
Suburb Theatre veteran Val Gregory has really been longing to direct this
play for years, since she first saw it. (Val has been in and directed many a play,
and scored a great hit with a portrayal of Dolly Messiter in Brief Encounter when
we did it last autumn). She has now lovingly and meticulously researched the accents,
the region, the dance, the music (The Mason's Apron was especially hard to track
down!) and she brought in a dialect coach from the Irish Arts Centre in NW London,
and got loads and loads of help from the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. She took herself
off to the area of Donegal where the fictional Ballybeg is located and absorbed
some of the atmosphere. One of the actresses has changed the message on her answerphone
to give a recorded greeting in a Donegal accent, that has convinced a lot of people!
So with a mixed English, Jewish and South African cast, Val has created a little
piece of Donegal in Hampstead Garden Suburb. Val is herself a retired music teacher
who keeps her hand in!
Origin of LUGHNASA
The God Lugh was
the grandson of evil King Balor who could kill with a glance. Balor had been told
by a Druid that he would be killed by his grandson. So he locked his daughter
Eithne away and surrounded her with female servants to stop her conceiving a child.
These were the original inhabitants of Ireland - the Fomoire. Cian, Lugh's father,
was a Shining God from the tribe, Il Danu, that came to Ireland in a ship that
sailed the skies and began to win control control with a more generous hand than
the kings. Cian seduced all of the handmaidens into acts of betrayal by an amazing
demonstration of sex appeal, and finally reached Eithne, making every single one
of them pregnant. The handmaidens all gave birth to seals, Eithne gave birth to
Lugh, whose mixed race origins were one source of his strength. He was fostered
and brought up by Talitu, a tribal Queen, and Mannanan McLir, the ruler of a mysterious
island off the coast of Ireland and who controlled the seas. His foster parents
gave him more strength by schooling him in an enormous range of skills, and he
was known as Samildnach - Master of all the Arts. It was this that gave him his
place in the mythical Hall of Kings, Tara, where only one practitioner of each
art was normally allowed a place. He was unique in that he alone was a practitioner
of all the arts. As the child and foster child of Gods and Kings from four distinct
realms of the land and the heavens, he was already a powerful god in his own right.
He did battle with his destructive grandfather and killed him.
mother Tailtu had set herself the task of making Ireland fertile and as she finished
making all the land fit for crops, she died of exhaustion. Lugh held a great feast
for her, in her honour, at the start of August - this was Lughnasa - the original
Lugnassadh translates as "Lugh's funeral feast." Lughnasa evolved throughout
Ireland over the centuries as a time for ceremonial first cutting of the corn,
collecting bilberries off the hillsides (they were seen as Lugh's gift to his
people), tribal business and trade, and "Telltown marriages" - where
couples could wed, and if it didn't work, release themselves a year a day afterwards
by walking away from each other in opposite directions. At least 95 sites on hills
and mountains and by lakes and rivers have been identified as places where the
celebrations must have taken place - some people must have walked for miles to
attend. But above all, dancing, dancing, dancing!!!
symbolism is plain. Lugh, the giver and defender of crops, fighting the destructive
evil eye - the drought-inducing sun and the destroyer of all that is good! The
skilful and inventive beating the warlike and destructive. The good warrior keeping
his people safe and fed. Work hard on the land and it will reward you, and you
can dance your woes away. An agricultural deity for an agricultural people.
at Lughnasa" by Brian Friel picks up on these tribal ceremonies. The play
is set in August 1936, and the sisters of the Mundy family dance from a primal
need, the minute they hear music. It releases tensions amongst them and they always
have it, however they much fall into disgrace and poverty. Their brother Jack,
a broken African missionary, parallels their dancing by bringing us the powerful
memory of working with people who also have imperative tribal rhythms.
music in Lughnasa is traditional Irish dance music but Brian Friel also shows
the continuity of the drive by also using Cole Porter's Anything Goes as yet another
tune to which their feet irresistibly begin tapping, even though their lives are
becoming more and more difficult. They cling to their Marconi radio, that family,
for all they are worth.
Dancing at Lughnasa is not about the god Lugh
or his harvest festival, but about the way people are and how they defend themselves
and keep going. In the same way that they always have!
**NOTE: The score for the film version of "Dancing
at Lughnasa," starring Meryl Streep, is by none other than Riverdance's Bill
Original Web Design: Alexander Servas