Production No. 382

More images from Dancing at Lughnasa


by the director,
Ursula Wright

First, the title.  I have a theory that people are put off by titles containing unfamiliar, unpronounceable-looking words.  Don’t be – it’s loo-na-sar.  Simple!  (Lugh is the Irish pagan god of the harvest and his festival was celebrated during the month of August).

Second, the setting.  The play is set in County Donegal 1936, in an imaginary village called Ballybeg (where Brian Friel locates several of his plays).  I will not, however, be looking for accurate Donegal accents at the audition.  More important is a feel for the rhythms, the inflections and the musicality of the text.  I am confident that in rehearsal the ensemble nature of the play, together with the guidance of a co-opted voice coach, will enable us to reach an acceptable level of authenticity.

Next, the dancing.   Although dance is a central metaphor in the play, there are two kinds of dancing that we see:  the “strictly ballroom” of the thirties in which Gerry and Agnes are seen to be proficient, and the uninhibited, improvised outburst of the five sisters (which requires no previous dance experience!).  We have a choreographer, Chris Dugrenier, who will help us to achieve both.

Now the characters:  there are five women and three men in his play, all beautifully written and characterised.  A young boy Michael is present but invisible to the audience; his words are spoken by the adult Michael (unlike the film version)

I am looking forward to the challenge of directing this complex, moving and beautiful play.



Distinctive amateur drama
in Northampton since 1932

Registered Charity No. 294848


Join Masque Theatre




Useful Links

Dancing at Lughnasa
by Brian Friel

Kate Billingham, Emily Bale, Bernadette Wood and Liz Clarke. Photo by Jayne West.

Tue 25 - Sat 29 October 2011 at 7.30pm
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Sheep Street, Northampton

Cast & Crew

Michael Richard Oliver
Christina Bernadette Wood
Maggie Kate Billingham
Agnes Liz Clarke
Rose Emily Bale
Kate Patricia Coleman
Gerry Sion Grace
Jack Martin Williams

Ursula Wright
Set Design Jude Lynn
Assisted by Jenny Allan

Costumes Wendy Dunkley, Dorothy Granger
Choreography Chris Dugrenier

Stage Manager Tim Bell
Deputy Stage Manager Rosie Chapman
Lighting Desk Richard Walker
Sound Desk Jennifer Saunders
Dialect Coach Marina Brookes
Knitting Advisor Greta Hendy

Photography Jayne West
Programme Design Martin Borley-Cox
Front of House Masque Theatre members
Special thanks to Northgate School Arts College, The Kerry School of Irish Dance, A Most Marvellous Place to Shop, Welland Valley Feeds, Mark Mortimer, Rob Kendall, Peter Borley-Cox, Joan Bell, Tamsyn Payne, Cosette Oliver, Joyce & Barry Munroe

A scene from Dancing at Lughnasa

by Ian Spiby

There is a saying about Masque theatre productions that if it is good, the actors get the credit and if it is not so good the director gets the blame!

I want to make it quite clear from the start that this production was good – no - it was splendid. And while I want to give due credit to the actors, I am going to concentrate on other aspects of the production, particularly the direction.

So - actors first. I had seen all of them before except two and (apart from those two obviously) they came up with performances which were better than I’ve seen them do before. I particularly liked watching them when they were not speaking – seeing them living through their parts before us. Even the two I didn’t know appeared to be giving performances which drew them out.

So why should this be, when in other plays they’ve not been as good as this? The answer is the director, Ursula Wright. She is the one who coaxed them, informed them, stretched them to give the best performances they could.

 But what of the other aspects of the production? Why were THEY so good? Talking to Tim Bell, the splendidly efficient stage manager who I’ve had the great good fortune to work with, he paid tribute to Ursula – how her attention to detail, her ability to have her eyes everywhere helped him achieve the highest standard possible. Every prop and piece of furniture was just right and there when and where it was needed.  The costumes (Wendy Dunkley and Dorothy Granger) looked just right and each one fitted perfectly the character and circumstances. No modern trainers with a silver buckle plonked on top in THIS production! Sound and light too, (Jennifer Saunders and Richard Walker) were pitched perfectly to suit the atmosphere and mood of each scene.

 Even that most unsung of unsung heroes, the prompter (Rosie Chapman) did her job brilliantly. On the night I saw the play, one actor hesitated slightly and lost focus. Immediately a low murmur came from the prompter’s corner and the actor continued. The audience forgot the incident in 5 seconds. Perfect!

 So what else did Ursula do? She managed the delicate, atmospheric shifts and nuances of this most delicate and mood-shifting play. She was in tune with what Brian Friel wants to tell us and together with her splendid team, achieved a performance that makes me proud to be a Masque member.

Page last updated: 31/10/2011 Masque Theatre © 2011