Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel, Gate Theatre
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Lonergan, Patrick. (2004). Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel, Gate Theatre. Irish Theatre Magazine, Summer 4 (19).
Dancing at Lughnasa premiered at the Abbey in 1990, and was produced in Dublin during five of the ten subsequent years – using the same director and designer every time. Our understanding of the play has therefore been conditioned to an unusual extent by people other than Brian Friel – by Joe Vanek, whose design has now become iconic, and by Patrick Mason, whose direction is regarded by some as an inspiring highpoint of recent Irish theatre, but by others as a sentimentalised betrayal of Friel’s text. This over-familiarity, combined with the 1997 film version of Lughnasa – and the impact of Riverdance on our perception of the play’s famous dance scene – has blunted its impact considerably.