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Criterion Theatre
Dancing At Lughnasa (2014)
Written by Brian Friel
Sat 22nd March to Sat 29th March
Director – Annie Woodward
Production Photos
Michael – Richard Copperwaite
Maggie – Emma Withers
Agnes – Cathryn Bowler
Rose – Natalie Harratt
Chris – Georgia Kelly
Gerry – Sean Glock
Jack – Graham Underhill
Choreographer – Robin Stokoe
Stage Manager – Clair Henrywood
Assistant Director – Robin Stokoe
Set Designer – Judy Talbot
Caterer to the Cast and Crew – Judy Sharpe
Set Build i/c – Simon Sharpe
Set Build – Frances Dixon
Set Build – David Jones
Set Build – Stella Gabriel
Set Build – Chris Hernon
Set Build – David Jones
Set Build – Judy Talbot
Set Build – Mike Tooley
Set Build – Terry Rahilly
Set Build – Kevin Woods
Set Build – Ben Woodward
Set Paint i/c – Judy Talbot
Set Paint – Doreen Belton
Set Paint – Catherine Beresford
Set Paint – Pam Coleman
Set Paint – Bill Taylor
Lighting – Ian Knight
Sound – Dave Cornish
Props – Chris Jones
Props – Sue Hadlum
Props – Harry Leonard
Props – Peter Jones
Prompt – Anne Houston
Wardrobe – Maureen Liggins
Wardrobe – Jan Ali
Wardrobe – Pam Coleman
Wardrobe – Helen Elias
Voice Coach – Jimmy Donaghey
The Programme

Premiered at Dublin's Abbey Theatre, this multi-award-winning play is about five impoverished spinster sisters in a remote part of County Donegal at harvest time in 1936. The five Mundy sisters, whose ages range from twenty-six to forty live in a house outside the village of Ballybeg and are barely able to make ends meet. With them live Michael, seven-year-old son of the youngest sister, and Jack, the sisters' elder brother, a missionary priest newly returned from Africa. The event's of that summer are narrated in recall by the adult Michael, unfolding a tender and warm study of these women's lives. The play has won many awards including an Olivier and a Tony. In 1998 it was made into a film starring Meryl Streep.

A brief if bittersweet harvest for the five Mundy sisters set in the County Donegal of 1936 and based loosely on the lives in playwright Brian Friel's own sisters.

The Criterion's usual talented set designers place us directly into the heart of the action, which is narrated by Richard Copperwaite (Michael) a relative newcomer to the Earlsdon theatre and a very welcome addition.

Richard has the accent and timing to guide us through the lyrical but ultimately hard pre-war years. I particularly enjoyed his beguiling lapses into his seven-year-old self before seamlessly reverting back into his adult explanation of his lovely, ageing aunts, who time appeared to have forgotten.

This is all a million miles away from the company's last production, Mindgame. That production Anne-Marie Greene (Kate) directed - in this one she proved herself to be a surprisingly good Irish dancer.

And I loved the wild abandon of Emma Withers (Maggie) in contrast to the tensions and missed opportunities of the other sisters played by Georgie Kelly (Chris) Cathryn Bowler (Agnes) and Natalie Harratt (Rose).

Simultaneously their lives are enhanced by the arrival of a radio, while their livelihoods are threatened by other new inventions, like the knitting machine.
Other aspects of the world beyond the sisters' narrow horizons are offered by their uncle, Jack (Graham Underhill), back from doing missionary work in Africa where, if truth be told, he'd turned a little bit native.

Finally there's complete newcomer Sean Glock, playing Gerry, the charmer and object of affection for more than one of the Mundy girls and another welcome addition to the company.
Older members of the audience may dimly recognise Friel's mirror of the rural lives of parents or grandparents in this assured piece directed by Annie Woodward.
For younger theatre-goers the play offers a glimpse into a lost world.

Barbara Goulden, March 2014
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