Translations By Brian Friel Summary

Translations is even more potent, remarkably layered but totally accessible, set in a hedge school in Ballybeg in 1833, interlocking a skein of themes of communication, language, Irish history and cultural imperialism. Friel uses language – Latin and Greek are spoken in the school – to highlight the way in which generational and cultural issues impact on communication, but his play is not remotely didactic; with one of its strands the delicately shaded love story of a young local girl (speaking only Irish) and an English soldier, this most richly characterised play remains one of Friel’s outstanding achievements.

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The work of Brian Friel unquestionably places him in the great tradition of Irish theatre, with a dramatic landscape as distinctive as those of his 20th century predecessors O’Casey and Beckett. Many of his plays travelled widely beyond Ireland, and some – the haunting monologue -structured Faith Healer, Translations and his worldwide success, Dancing at Lughnasa – will surely survive as classics.


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A similar seamless assurance stamped later plays as well as Friel’s excursions into translations and adaptations of other writers. The Home Place (2005) is set in 1878 Ballybeg against the background of Ireland’s Land War (at the opening the funeral of a local landlord murdered by revolutionaries is taking place offstage). A low-key, gentle play, The Home Place takes place in another “Big House”, the home of a well-intentioned English landlord, Christian (beautifully played by Tom Courtenay), whose Darwin-inspired anthropologist cousin has plans to use the science of eugenics to study and calibrate the local Irish, a plot woven alongside that of the complications caused by Christian and his son both falling in love with their housekeeper.