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Set in the summer of , the play depicts the late summer days when love briefly seems possible for three of the Mundy sisters Chris, Rose, and Kate and the family welcomes home the frail elder brother, who has returned from a life as a missionary in Africa. However, as the summer ends, the family foresees the sadness and economic privations under which they will suffer as all hopes fade. The play takes place in early August, around the festival of Lughnasadh , the Celtic harvest festival.
The play describes a bitter harvest for the Mundy sisters, a time of reaping what has been sown. The oldest, Kate, is a school teacher , the only one with a well-paid job.
Agnes and Rose knit gloves to be sold in town, thereby earning a little extra money for the household.
They also help Maggie to keep house. Michael is seven years old and plays in and around the cottage. Recently returned home after 25 years is their brother Jack, a priest who has lived as a missionary in a leper colony in a remote village called Ryanga in Uganda.
It becomes clear that he has " gone native " and abandoned much of his Catholicism during his time there. This may be the real reason he has been sent home. He is a charming yet unreliable man, always clowning.
He is a travelling salesman who sells gramophones. He visits rarely and always unannounced. A radio nicknamed " Marconi ", which works only intermittently, brings s dance and traditional Irish folk music into the home at rather random moments and then, equally randomly, ceases to play. This leads the women into sudden outbursts of wild dancing. The poverty and financial insecurity of the sisters is a constant theme.
Dancing at Lughnasa (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes
So are their unfulfilled lives: There is a tension between the strict and proper behaviour demanded by the Catholic Church , voiced most stridently by the upright Kate, and the unbridled emotional paganism of the local people in the "back hills" of Donegal and in the tribal people of Uganda.
There is a possibility that Gerry is serious this time about his marriage proposal to Christina. On this visit, he says he is going to join the International brigade to fight in the Spanish Civil War , not from any ideological commitment but because he wants adventure. There is a similar tension here between the "godless" forces he wants to join and the forces of Franco against which he will be fighting, which are supported by the Catholic Church.
The opening of a knitwear factory in the village has killed off the hand-knitted glove cottage industry that has been the livelihood of Agnes and Rose. The village priest has told Kate that there are insufficient pupils at the school for her to continue in her post in the coming school year in September. She suspects that the real reason is her brother Jack, whose heretical views have become known to the Church and have tainted her by association.
The narrator, the adult Michael, tells us this is indeed what happens.
Dancing at Lughnasa Movie Review (1998) | Roger Ebert
Characters[ edit ] Kate Mundy Kate is the eldest of the Mundy sisters and behaves as a Mother figure as a result. However, her sensitivity is evident throughout the play and through the narratives provided by Michael, who claims she was "inconsolable" when Father Jack died. Maggie Mundy In place of a career, Maggie acts as the chief family homemaker.
Throughout the play she is revealed as serving a deeper purpose as the "joker" of the family, defusing tensions as they arise. Her sudden quiet contemplation in her monologue is deeply contrasted with her usual fun-loving way of speaking. Christina Mundy At 26 years old, Chris is the youngest of the Mundy sisters, and, like Maggie, has no paid job. Gerry Evans fathered her son, Michael, seven years ago and is seen as walking in and out of their lives as he chooses.
As a result, Chris fluctuates between falling into a deep depression when he leaves, yet being renewed with optimism that his next visit will be a permanent stay. Her lack of income can lead Chris to be defensive on the upbringing of her son, shown when Kate buys Michael a new spinning top at the beginning of the play. Rose Mundy Rose is 32, but behaves much younger than her years, due to a developmental disability.
This condition makes her particularly vulnerable to an unseen character, Danny Bradley, a married man, whom Rose believes is in love with her. She is particularly close to her older sister, Agnes, with whom she knits gloves to sell in the town. Agnes Mundy Agnes is quiet and contemplative, knitting gloves with Rose whilst also helping to keep the house in order, along with Maggie.
She appears to be silently infatuated with Gerry and is quick to leap to his defence. Her knitting fails to support her when the knitware factory opens. Due to her sense of parental regard for Rose, she immigrates with her to London, breaking off all contact with the family, and dies in dire circumstances in the s.
Michael Evans main character Michael does not appear onstage as a child, but his presence is alluded to by the other characters, while the adult Michael speaks his lines from the side of the stage. As a child, Michael is seen as being surrounded by love, since all five of the sisters dote on him.
Michael also acts as a narrator, not only dictating the action as it goes on, but revealing the futures of the other characters in the play. Gerry Evans Gerry is initially portrayed as an intensely negative character, particularly by Kate, for having left Chris after fathering her illegitimate son, Michael.
However, upon his first appearance in the play, Gerry is shown to be charming and genuinely affectionate towards Chris. His current job as a gramophone salesman like his former job as a ballroom dancing instructor represents his freedom, in sharp contrast to the stagnant lives of the Mundy sisters.
This is made all the more obvious by the fact that he is leaving Ireland to join the International Brigade and fight in the Spanish Civil War , something that is further disapproved of by Kate. As well as having romantic feelings for Chris, Gerry seems particularly inclined towards Agnes, although the true state of their relationship remains in doubt.
We learn later that he secretly has another family back in Wales , and that all his proposals of marriage to Christina have been false.
Father Jack Jack is in his late fifties. He had left home as a young man to work as a missionary in a leper colony in Uganda. He is well respected in Donegal for his missionary work in a leper colony. However, his sudden return to Ballybeg for undisclosed reasons has paved the way for great changes. He has difficulty with his memory, often forgetting the names of his sisters or confusing them with his former house boy Okawa, with whom we are told he was very close.
Jack professes a broad admiration for the pagan beliefs of the native people of Africa, and appears to have lost his Catholic faith, which may be the true reason his superiors have sent him back. Jack refers to Michael as a love child rather than an illegitimate child and says they are common and accepted among the people of Uganda.
In a scene near the close of the play he swaps his British colonial tricorn hat, a gift from a British governor, for a lesser hat worn by Gerry. Jack turns the swap into a non-catholic ceremony as well as referring to Uganda as his home. It is Gerry who is now to go abroad seeking adventure just as Jack settles back into his home country. Father Jack recovers from his malaria and confusion, but Michael as narrator tells us that he died of a heart attack soon after the events portrayed in the play.
Productions[ edit ] Original production The play was originally presented at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in Directed by Annabelle Comyn.