Identity and culture are at the forefront of many news stories and political
debates. Brian Friel's Translations tells of the human tragedy and loss of dignity endured by a simple rural community in County Donegal in 1833.
The English begin their first Ordnance survey of Ireland. This brings
drastic consequences for the Irish speaking inhabitants of Baile Beag and
its hedge school. Suddenly English replaces Irish and everything that the
people once knew is erased and replaced.
At the centre of the narrative is a collection of memorable and fascinating
characters. Hugh (Frank Grimes) is an old fashioned school master who loves
Latin and the Irish language. Manus (Brendan Foster) is his loyal son who
senses that the English have a hidden agenda. Owen (Liam O'Brady) - the
older brother - is working with the English on their plans to rename the areas
within Donegal. The rest of the community welcomes the English until they
realise that everything they believe in is slowly being etched away.
This beautiful, touching and sometimes thought provoking play is well
directed by Roger Haines. He has respect for the material and elicits fine
performances from the entire cast.
Grimes is masterful and commanding, Foster conveys a vulnerable edge to Manus without painting him as a
victim. O'Brady is marvellous and provides the audience with a likeable
but naive Owen whose actions destroy his roots and the lives of all those
Aislinn Mangan and Tim Mitchell play young lovers from the
opposite side of the tracks. One is a Baile Beag student and mother, the
other a British Soldier. Watching these two communicate without bi-lingual
skills is incredibly moving as the only language they understand is that of
Friel's marvellous writing alone is able to move the audience to tears.
But the whole package is evident here including Judith Croft's marvellous
set which captures the naivety and trusting nature of the community with superb
This production is funny, moving, and universal in its appeal. The topic of
loss of identity is ever relevant in a world where 'globalisation' is so
much more than a buzz-word for sociology students.