By Brian Friel
Directed by Mary Coffey
Translations is a powerful exploration of a language and identity under threat from colonisation. The play is lyrical, political, thought-provoking, and also has some laugh out loud moments. Written in 1980 but set in 1833, Translations addresses issues stretching from language and communication to Irish history and cultural imperialism.
Set in 1833 in the village of Baile Beag in Donegal, on Ireland’s North West Coast.
The small local school, where classes are conducted in Irish, is to be replaced by a national education system in which only English is to be taught and spoken. At the same time, British soldiers are engaged in an ordnance survey involving the anglicisation of Irish place names.
Friel explores these radical changes through their impact on individuals: in particular, Hugh, the local teacher steeped in Latin and Greek; his bilingual son, Owen, who acts as interpreter for the occupying forces; an English lieutenant, Yolland, who readily succumbs to the romance of Ireland and Maire, the village girl he falls for, who sees her only hope for a future is to learn English.
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