Translations by Brian Friel – Abbey Theatre, Dublin



I studied Translations for my last assignment at college (and got a 2:1 for it, yippee! ). As mentioned previously on my blog, I really enjoyed my modules on Irish playwriting, so much so that my wife and I took a long overdue trip to finally visit Dublin last week. This was our first time in this great city and we did all the touristy things, top of my list though was a visit to the Abbey Theatre and this was even more of a priority when I found out that they were putting on a revival of Friel’s Translations on whilst we were there.

My visit coincided with the opening preview night, so my review is based on that performance I hasten to add.

It’s a play with powerful themes and ideas, are they still relevant in a post Good Friday Agreement Ireland and the globalised 21st Century? By Friel locating his play in a historical setting of the early 1800’s, he has avoided the possibility of it becoming dated. The theme of language and it’s evolution as a political tool of oppression in many ways has a contemporary and different message now. Ireland itself is a very different place since this was written, the Celtic Tiger period of its history has been and gone, and walking around Dublin whilst I could not deny this is Ireland’s capital, and Irish in every way, I was also aware of it being a very multicultural city with a plethora of accents and languages being spoken.

The Abbey Theatre itself was a pleasure to visit, a modern and comfortable theatre that looks like it has had a recent refurbishment. I was also pleased to see what a vibrant bunch were there for the opening night, and it was great to see the theatre filled with so many young people/students. As and when I return to Dublin, I will certainly make sure a visit to The Abbey is on my list of things to do on each trip.

I was pleased to see this play finally. The set designed by Naomi Wilkinson was superb, the soil stage was a brilliant theatrical device as the indigenous characters were all barefoot whilst the colonial characters and Owen are booted, a subtle but clever device noting the characters wealth. This added to the rural and earthly feel of the piece.

It’s always a delight to see an alumnus of Rose Bruford College on stage and Janice Bryne as Sarah, acted this dumb character extremely well. Aaron Monaghan as Manus gave a very strong performance, limping about the stage we see him struggle to find himself only to then decide to flee. The most touching scene in Act 2 between Lieutenant Yolland and Maire, played by Tim Delap and Aoife McMahon where they are speaking to each other, saying the same things, yet in languages neither can fully understand was certainly one of the highlights of the performance for me.

I’m sure this run will be a success for The Abbey, it’s a modern-day classic of Irish playwriting, but its themes and ideas are equally as important now and so it’s of interest to a wider audience too. It’s a play that has some brilliant comedic moments, yet it’s tinged with a melancholy sadness throughout. It’s depiction of the circularity of violence is still a very important message especially with peace only ever on a delicate knife-edge.

If you’re in Ireland, I really recommend you see this, or if like me you fancy a trip to Dublin, use this play as a good excuse to go and see this fantastic city.

I must get around to compiling a page of my favourite theatres, when I do, The Abbey Theatre will be in there.



6 thoughts on “Translations by Brian Friel – Abbey Theatre, Dublin

  1. Thanks for that Anna.
    I always find it difficult to ascertain what input a director has or hasn’t had! Hopefully my theatre criticism module will help with that this year!

  2. I suppose it varies from director to director, and some scripts demand a certain style (Pinter and Beckett’s work spring to mind as plays that you can’t muck around with too much), but there are some directors whose work and reputations lead you to expect a particular approach. Obviously you’d be stupid to try to muck about with Translations, especially in Dublin, but I’m sure that on some levels it was a very different production to the one I saw in Leicester last year.

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