The Brian Friel Papers

the notion of something forbidden

In this note towards Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), Friel suggests that the ‘core’ of the play might be the expression of the uncelebrated or taboo through the medium of dance. Fr. Jack, the Mundy sisters’ brother who has been sent home from Uganda having embraced local practices of worship, plays the role of a catalyst in this respect.

From MS 37,104/1, National Library of Ireland; copyright Brian Friel Estate, reproduced by permission.


Gerry the casual Republican, appeases his nationalistic tribal Gods, too.

21 May.

Fr. Jack – perhaps in his one monologue? – will tell of his relationship with his people, his house boy. And this must mirror/echo the relationships in the house. So that when Fr. Jack + Father + Rose dance at the end all these will have come together in a comprehensive sympathy and mutual support and – importantly – in revelation. This (above) must be punctuated by Fr. Jack’s story: – 

his houseboy always doing his God-appeasing dance/shuffle.

Fr. Jack forbidding it. But watching from a distance

now Fr. Jack tutoring Father + Rose in it

[30 May. Is this vague notion above somehow close to the core of the play? — the notion of something forbidden, or at least something not publicly blessed, being expressed + celebrated in dance.

[Was Fr. Jack in some way reprimanded by his Ugandan superiors? Was he sent home in his incipient dotage – the excuse being his malaria? – because HE WAS REVERTING TO NATIVE PRACTISES? – beginning to go to seed?

His intellectual simplicity – naivety is patent. For him, a colonial instrument of both church + state, there would be no conflict in honouring the District Commission and doing the Rain (?) Dance. Would Father try to educate him?) Top

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