Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa is a memory play told from the perspective of Michael (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), nephew to five sisters living in a cottage near the fictional town of Ballybeg. It is slow to get going, but it gets under your skin, and you don’t realise it until long afterwards. It’s a play that is joyful and sad, charming and moving.
Sadness and failure have their own grandeur, like the bleak back-hills projected behind Robert Jones’ sweeping vista of a set. In Josie Rourke’s deeply atmospheric production of Dancing At Lughnasa at the National Theatre, rural Donegal desolation looms behind small domesticity, just as the pagan wildness of human nature threatens the threadbare sedateness of Catholicism.
Ian Rickson’s excellent production at the Harold Pinter Theatre demonstrates, without a shadow of a doubt, why The Birthday Party deserves its classic status.
But this starry revival of The Birthday Party which has just opened at – where else? – the Harold Pinter Theatre – is immensely enjoyable – even if you occasionally lose the plot.
With its episode of a game of blind man’s bluff being both very funny and rather horrible, this is a Birthday Party for a generation brought up on The League of Gentlemen.
Ian Rickson’s production is a tense and unnerving experience that utilises all the skills of its excellent cast to reinforce the oddity of one of Pinter’s most performed plays.
Revival of Sean O’Casey’s modern classic shows its continued relevance, but is a bit meticulously sombre.