Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Book 23 of 2013: Dancing At Lughnasa

Dancing at Lughnasa is a play by Brian Friel and was the penultimate text to be studied on my OU literature course. It's set in Ireland during the 1930s and is narrated by Michael who is looking back on two scenes from his childhood. Although Michael narrates the scenes and is present as a child, he isn't really there; the child in the scenes is just imagined (although the other characters interact with him as though he was there). The story is focused on the women of the family, the five Mundy sisters, and their interactions, as well as two men; their older brother, Jack who is just returned from missionary work in Africa, and Michael's father who stops by to visit.

I rarely read plays unless I'm actually having to study them for one reason or another. I used to be involved in the local drama group, so obviously I would read whatever play was being performed, but I struggle to read them just as a story on their own. So had it not been for my course this wouldn't have been something that I would've chosen to read myself.

Something about it reminded me of Sunset Song. I never studied it at school, but we did go on a trip to see it when I was at school (although I remember more about the shopping in Edinburgh before the play than what actually took place on the stage). I think it was just the fact that it was during a time of hardship in a different way of life to now, but I was kind of picturing the stage the way it had been for that play.

It was fairly easy to follow. There are some play texts that I've read over the years which seem to take a lot of work to figure out how things are unfolding on the stage, but this wasn't one of them. I was able to picture what was happening on the stage fairly well. In fact I think it was probably clearer for me because I was able to imagine the child-Michael in the scene, whereas in performance he wouldn't have been there.

It would probably be interesting to see it in performance, purely to get the full effect of it. I always find that when I read a play before seeing it you can miss some bits because on the page it's just text but then the actors take it and turn it into something more. I wonder if I would struggle with the absent child-Michael. I imagine I might find that distracting, though he's not really in the scenes a huge amount.

The play is all about adult-Michael looking back to his childhood and remembering these two separate events. As soon as I started reading it I could immediately see how it was connected to the course book (which was looking at Memory and Mirgration for this particular section). It was a very quick read, at only 71 pages. I think I read most of it while Mr Click was in the bath!

It's unlikely to be something I revisit again and I'll probably stick the book on eBay once I've got confirmation that I've passed the course and don't need to retake the exam. Come to think about it, if I did have to retake the exam I probably wouldn't pick this as one of my texts to write about. I'm pleased I've read it and it was a good way to spend an hour or so but I do much prefer to see plays performed rather than just reading them by myself.

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