Translations

I visited the Rose Theatre in Kingston once again to see Brian Friel’s Translations, a 1980 play looking at the tensions between the native Irish population and the new English soldiers in 1830s Ireland. The soldiers have been tasked with Anglicising place names and redrawing territorial boundaries, and their presence threatens the existence of a small hedge school which teaches its pupils the classics, to the concern of one of its pupils who would rather learn English, the language which will help her move to America.

The cleverest and best thing about the play is the way in which it is at all times completely clear what language the characters are meant to be speaking, even though – for the audience’s benefit – they are actually speaking English. In particular, this is beautifully done during the scene in which Máire (Beth Cooke) and sweet English officer Yolland (James Northcote) fall in love; they try to communicate even though they cannot understand one another’s language.

If there is one criticism I have of the play, it is that the ending felt somehow unfinished. Despite the long-ish running time, I feel it could have done with another half hour. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the play.

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