Search

Theatre Review: Translations, National Theatre

PUBLISHED: 09:19 11 June 2018

translations

translations

copyright CATHERINE ASHMORE

A tender and intimate revival of Brian Friel’s epic tale of love and language in rural 1830s Ireland

TRANSLATIONS

National Theatre

Four Stars

Brian Friel’s exquisite play gets a gorgeous revival from Ian Rickson, emphasising how its thoughtful treatment of language – in both subject and form – illuminates profound questions about nationality, identity, heritage and connection.

In 1830s rural Ireland, Hugh and son Manus run a Gaelic-speaking ‘hedge school’, where Ancient Greek and Latin are taught, not English. But Hugh’s other son Owen returns with British soldiers in tow, on a mission to map the land – and Anglicise its place names.

Alongside this intricate plot, fraught with colonial undertones and the clash of tradition and progress, is a star-crossed romance between local girl Maire – tentative sweetheart of Manus, but eyeing passage to America – and newcomer Lieutenant Yolland.

Friel’s inspired text is all in English, but represents Gaelic as well. It’s gently comic, and an apt metaphor, to see everyone speaking the same words yet not understanding one another, and also presages the domination of English.

For the lovers, difference is seductive, and both circle around the binding word “always”. But their Eden – which begins with new birth, sun and plenty – soon turns to a stormy battlefield, talk of famine, and a climactic image foreshadowing militancy. Now, both North Ireland’s current conflicts and Brexit border battles add resonance.

A pitch-perfect ensemble is confidently led by Colin Morgan as the opportunistic Owen, who has a foot in both worlds – but whose identity is murky, with the soldiers mistakenly calling him “Roland”.

Seamus O’Hara is excellent as the furiously perceptive Manus, Adetomiwa Edun and Judith Roddy endearing as the lovers, giddy with possibilities, and Ciarán Hinds a commanding patriarch, yet poignant as he romanticises a fading past.

Rae Smith’s detailed, loamy set – invaded by bright-red uniforms – and Neil Austin’s elemental lighting are superb. A tender, intimate and wondrous epic.

Latest Islington Entertainment Stories

Yesterday, 16:47

The curtain could finally be raised on a forgotten 400-seat underground theatre beneath Islington Green – a decade after it was built.

Wed, 15:53

“My health is my life and I treasure that to the fullest now,” says Akua Kezia, an Upper Holloway resident and author of The Transplant Girl.

Wed, 14:43

On Wednesday August 22, the Islington branch of Waterstones will open its doors to Beatles fans for a special event hosted by a leading authority on the Fab Four.

Friday, August 10, 2018

You won’t be leaving your pizza crusts behind when it comes to Yard Sale’s latest guest chef collaboration.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Fostering older teenagers means giving them the skills for life as an adult. Here, a supportive lodgings carer with Islington Council and young adult who has left care share their stories

Newsletter Sign Up

Islington Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read entertainment

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now