The mesmerising ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ tells the tale of the five Mundy sisters in their crumbling family home in Ballybeg.

Vanessa Emme, who has lived around the world and is currently based in London, plays the role of love-torn Chrissy at the Lyric Theatre, and exclaims: “I’ve fallen in love with this city!”

“The people of Belfast have genuinely made this my favourite city to have performed in so far, 110%! People here have the ‘craic’ – they genuinely go out of their way over here to make you feel at home!”

She adds: “I would love to come back to the Lyric – I would in a heartbeat! It is definitely ‘up there’ in terms of experience. Acting-wise I’ve not had one bad day here. Sometimes, as an actor, when you’re in a company and you’re starting a new play away from home it can be really tough, but I haven’t felt like that once in Belfast.”

“During every single performance I feel like I am learning something new about my character. I am enjoying discovering new things about Chrissy every day, and that is how you know as an actor that you’re on to a real gem…”

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“That’s down to the company and the people here. The people of Belfast have a way of lifting your spirits. In the Lyric, from the staff at the cafe to the production team, they never let you go without, and that extends everywhere you go in the city. If you’re sitting alone having a cup of tea, people come over to you so you’re not sitting alone. When you’re out and about at all the amazing bars and restaurants, the banter everyone has is incredible.”

“My highlight has definitely been the real community feel in the Lyric and Belfast itself! I certainly intend to come back as soon as possible! As soon as Belfast lets me!”

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Vanessa Emme plays the enigmatic role of Chrissy – which Vanessa explains involved a lot of research in order to understand.

“These women are stuck in a house together and are deeply ostracised – mainly due to my character’s actions in having a child out of wedlock. I therefore had to research the history and look back in time in order to understand the sheer hold Catholicism in Ireland had in the 1930’s and the impact it had over people’s lives.”

“You know, these were the times of the Magdalene Laundries, a time in which your poor children could be taken away from you if they were born out of wedlock. These women chose to keep the child – an extremely brave move when you think of the time!”

Despite this though, Chrissy is locked in a constant battle with herself: “Chrissy is driven by her need to understand the world. She is very much in love with Gerry, Michael’s dad – which is extremely important, but he brings danger.”

“She understands what she has done – all of her sisters are having to live with the repercussions – not just her. But inside her body comes alive when she sees him. Her sisters are living the struggle that they are because of her – but she is in a constant inner battle with herself…”

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Vanessa explains Chrissy is constantly ‘overshadowed’ – even by her sisters, who all try to mother the child much to her irritation: “It annoys her, she wants to understand her role as a mother, but they all chime in. Within the house too, they all have their separate roles, but Chrissy is left fighting to know what hers is. In the end, Chrissy’s story is about wanting to understand her role not only as a mother, a woman, her role in the house amongst the sisters and indeed, the world. I think we all can identify with that.”

But Vanessa adds that all of the characters in the play are fascinating characters: “All of the women in this play are mercilessly interesting parts to play. They are each incredibly layered – telling the tale of how deeply interesting it is to have to put on a brave face all day, every single day, when inside you’re burning with life and desire!”

“That is why the first dance is so important to us as an ensemble to capture the story of each individual sister. It comes from a place buried deep, deep within, it’s like a feeling deep down inside waiting to burst out from each of them.”

“That’s why it was so vital that this wasn’t just your typical polite ‘Irish dance.’ It’s chaotic, and it’s very loud!”

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Having graduated from the Lir Academy last year, Vanessa has performed in the likes of London’s famous Globe Theatre, but adds that having the chance to perform in The Lyric is literally a dream come true for her: “The play was designed for the Lyric stage, and it truly sets in so beautifully.”

“Even though The Lyric is a large theatre, it provides a wonderfully intimate setting. The magic, its acoustics, combined with the intimacy makes it just a truly magical place to perform.”

“We’ll be very sad to leave The Lyric and we hope the play doesn’t loose its magic when we move. Every single seat in this theatre has such a fantastic view of centre-stage – it’s incredible. I like to sit within the audience during sound-checks and watch the other actors onstage to get a taste of what they will be seeing and hearing from their particular view – I try out every single seat possible and I’ve never been more impressed!”

Catherine McCormack, Vanessa Emme, Catherine Cusack, Cara Kelly, Mary Murray (1)

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