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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Director Mary will dance with delight as Keswick show launches

It’s been a busy time for Mary Papadima, preparing for the opening of her first show as associate director of Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake.

IT’S been a busy time for Mary Papadima, preparing for the opening of her first show as associate director of Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake.

The rehearsal schedule has been so packed and there are so many meetings to fit in about technical aspects of the show that it’s a wonder she finds time to chat about it, but she squeezes in a quick Q&A between appointments.

When Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa opens in the Main House tonight it marks a milestone for Mary, 33.

It was not her first show at the theatre – in fact, she has been working there in a freelance capacity for seven years – but it is the first as a full-time employee there and the first knowing she definitely had other shows to follow.

In one sense, it was no different. In another, a step change.

Mary says: “The creative process is always the same and you actively try not to let things like your personal situation affect it at all. However, you’re always developing new ideas and now I know I have future shows to use them on.”

Although she grew up in Athens, Mary has a great affinity with Keswick, and particularly Theatre by the Lake, and is pleased to be a permanent fixture.

She says: “It’s my spiritual home. I did my training at Theatre by the Lake and have been working there freelance ever since.

“It’s fantastic that all the love and work I’ve put in to the theatre over the years has translated into something permanent. It’s wonderful to know that for the foreseeable future I’ll be staying in the place that I love, doing a job that I love.”

As well as working on Dancing at Lughnasa now, Mary is lined up to direct Dracula and Old Times in the summer season and Peter Pan, alongside artistic director Ian Forrest, at Christmas.

Dancing at Lughnasa was chosen by Ian Forrest, who has directed the play before. His choice was welcomed by Mary.

She says: “I was very pleased when he asked me to direct it because it’s a director’s dream. It’s very poetic and deals with life in a way that’s so real and so human.

“The characters are just wonderful – they’re real enough to be familiar to anyone who watches the play.”

Set in 1936 rural Donegal during the ancient Celtic pagan festival of Lughnasa, which marks harvest, the play tells the story of five unmarried sisters and their nephew Michael, who lives with them.

When their missionary brother Jack returns from years abroad and Michael’s father arrives on an unexpected visit, the sisters soon realise the men have brought home more baggage than just their suitcases.

The sisters’ wireless brings a welcome escape, with dancing, laughter and moments of tenderness. But beneath the brave faces, these women are fighting to keep body and soul together.

The award-winning play is semi autobiographical and provides a powerful portrayal of the human spirit’s yearning to break free.

She says: “The play isn’t necessarily straightforward in terms of what’s real and what’s imagined so we’ve been going through and talking about what’s factual and what may have come from different characters’ minds. Of course that also means you come up against the challenge of how to combine memories and reality on stage.

“With such an interesting play as this it’s also a challenge to know when to stop. It’s wonderful to explore different possibilities, but at some point you have to make definite decisions so that everyone is on the same page.”

The show’s name has also proved a challenge for some.

Mary says: “I’ve heard the box office has had some interesting interpretations of the word – from Lufthansa to lasagne. It’s actually pronounced ‘Loo-nah-sah’. It’s not a word that’s used much in England, because it’s the Irish name for an ancient pagan harvest festival.

“We’ve had a similar issue in the rehearsal room, as the actors are doing Northern Irish accents. We’ve had to agree on what pronunciation to use for unusual words like ‘quinine’, which is a treatment for malaria.”

Whatever your pronunciation, Mary is sure that Dancing with Lughnasa will provide an evening of enjoyable and gripping entertainment.

The play runs until April 19. For tickets visit www.theatrebythelake.com or call 017687 74411.

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