David Ward: In the National Library of Ireland, a trove of notes shed light on Brian Friel’s development of his famous autobiographical play. One possible answer is Friel’s use of myth and metaphor (2). Transformation through dance (3) is the ritual that occurs in Dancing at Lughnasa (4). Resonant . It is and harvest time in County Donegal. In a house just outside the village of Ballybeg live the five Mundy sisters, barely making ends meet, their ages.

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On 22 May, he wrote: Stepping once again behind the ideological mask, she disperses the women back to their allotted tasks. The play’s brooding Chekhovian ethos of stasis and disintegration, of being and becoming, is apparently explicated around the summer of and the festival of La Lughnasa but, exploded by two visits from an antic outsider, a Welshman, Gerry Evans.

Against these possible expressions of desire and lack stands the solitary severity of Kate.

The Dancer or the Dance ? A Critical Analysis of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa – Persée

For the play, see Dancing at Lughnasa. They become grian Mundy girls in the lughnaasa which is dedicated to the “memory of those five brave Glenties women” and the model for bewildered Father Jack was their brother Bernard — Fr Barney, whose obituary in the Derry Journal also in the Friel papers described him as the “wee Donegal priest” who had come home “broken in health after 35 years of heroic service in the mission service in Uganda”.

But Dancing at Lughnasa illustrates these through a bitter-sweet dance of life, intermittently and desperately euphoric and silently hopeful in a family of women who trade in tragedy.

Thus in Dancing at Lughnasa we see the interface between the liminal and the contemporary analogue. Repression is rebelled against and expressed speechlessly but physically joyously by the women’s intermittent eruptions into dance.

Dancing at Lughnasa: the evolution of a masterpiece, step by step

In no other play has Friel exhibited so clearly an awareness of the female subject’s complicity in patriarchal structures and the inevitable ‘reward. Unleashed, these rhythms, flowing through the women’s actions, reflect how and why they are so open to the imaginary.


In its structural aspects, the play is thematically very close to Joyce particularly Finnegans Wake and Synge particularly The Playboy of the Western World. Lughnasa celebrates the powers of transcendent imagination, a reality in its own right, reached through and effected by myth and memory. One is Uncle Jack, back from 25 years as a missionary tending to lepers in Uganda.

But the opium poppy, because of its potential derivatives – morphine and heroin – has become associated with sleep, numbness and death. The play was revived ten years after its original production, again at the Abbey Theatre with the same production team headed by Patrick Mason. Michael’s honest use of ‘the power of the lie’, is born out of self-assurance whereas Hardy, ultimately, was devoured by excessive self-doubt and self-scrutiny which effectively undid the very powers he possessed which defy such scrutiny.

Pagan circular dances, like present-day European folk dances, signified the concept of equality and inextricable union between the male and female principle. Such myths formed a bridge between mythos and logos, temporal and atemporal existence. Like ‘the old quarry’ and ‘the well’, such references are important semes in the dance code.

These conflictual dynamics of pre-Christian and Dancibg energies are realised through componential representation, a layered metaphoric composition, potentially infinite because of its polydimensional network of semiotic properties. Gerry, Michael’s father, is Welsh.

Textually this is encapsulated in the harvest metaphor with its celebratory dance denied. This existence is only intermittently leavened by humour, the occasional Wild Woodbine and a pathetic faith in a church which maintains that suffering is good for the frel.

Some time later, he added next to that paragraph a note in red ink: Jack has, literally, forgotten the Word – logos. Under such circumstances, Frel has, literally, come home to die.

Unwittingly striking this contrast, Jack demonstrates the ramifications and ‘price’ of exogamy and loyalty themes closely scrutinized in Translations, February Learn how and when to remove this template message.

A later ar concerning this is that of Niall of the Nine Hostages, who consented to sleep with the ugly old hag by the well so that she be transformed into a radiant young maiden, and thereby gained the magic potion and with it the kingship over the land.


In this way, the ‘invasion’ of Evans is welcomed and serves to encourage their determination to dance.

Vol 2 No 2 Friel scribbled furiously and sometimes illegibly with his blunt pencil in the red book as he began to draft dialogue. These several wordless, metaphoric orchestrations of desire and lack require our interpretative effort and attention because they are multivocal and complex.

The Gaelic pagan world hinged on four festivals: But Dancing at Lughnasa, has its own perspective and agenda. Coming from outside this household, Gerry Evans personifies the attraction firel the material world and its falsity.


Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel. Views Read Edit View history. Dancing at Lughnasain the year of its 25th anniversary, was chosen as its signature production. Confirmation of this assertion is discernible in the programme notes which have accompanied productions in New York, Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland, outlining the cultural unit properties associated with this Celtic archetype.

The very manner of presentation the narrator hailing the dramatic episodes allows ordinariness identifiably the stuff of human existence to become numinous.

Dancing at Lughnasa – Wikipedia

The texture of life in Dancing at Lughnasa starts out so simply, so much a cross section of the everyday, so ordinary, laced as it is with the comings and goings of quotidian life, the cooking, and cleaning, nattering, and whining, the joking of the lives of the five grown sisters of the Mundy family in the lonely hills two miles outside the tiny village of Ballybeg, Ireland.

Peter Connolly, Gerrards Cross: To the abstract structure of myth, dance gives concrete visibility and significance. Observed by audiences and not narrated by the seanachie, the body is re-authenticated in dance, as celebrated by Lugh but forbidden by Christianity proprieties