Translations at The Abbey Theatre

“I am a barbarian in this place because I am not understood.”

Review by: Ciara Murphy

Title: Translations.

Dates: Until August 13th

Tickets: €13 – €40

Venue: The Abbey Theatre

Director: Conall Morrison

Writer: Brian Friel

Cast: Aaron Monaghan (The Silver Tassie), no rx Aoife McMahon (The Clinic), here Denis Conway (Christ Deliver Us), sale Tim Delap (Silent Witness), Barry Ward (The Plough and the Stars), Donal O’Kelly (The Canbria), Janet Moran (Pineapple), Michael James Ford (The Picture of Dorian Gray), Janice Byrne (Top Girls), Rory Nolan (Between Foxrock and a Hardplace)

Rating: 4/5

In the rural village of Baile Beag, change is underway. These alterations in education, language and place disrupt the country life and plunges the native residents into the throes of Anglicization. Set in 1833 and foreshadowing the potato blight that takes place ten years later, Brian Friel’s ‘Translations’ takes to The Abbey stage and illuminates how language is not always necessary for understanding. The connections of people and place and the cross-national loyalties litter the already turbulent political landscape and turn what is seemingly a black and white issue into many shades of grey.

Hugh (Denis Conway) and his son Manus (Aaron Monaghan) supervise the language of the community through their hedge school. The incoming National school threatens their livelihood and the arrival of Hugh’s son Owen (Barry Ward) proves to be the catalyst for the community’s eventual collapse.

The locals speak a mix of their native Irish with Greek and Latin whilst the ‘Brits’ speak only their native English. With only a few bilingual characters, the barrier of language is the focus of this production. Although the audience can understand every word (it is all spoken through English) the characters engage in a constant struggle for understanding both of each other and of themselves.

With two English Royal Engineers in tow, Captain Lancey (Michael James Ford) and Lieutenant Yolland (Tim Delap), Owen sets about “standardising” the place names of his home town and in turn setting in motion a chain of events that will shake Baile Beag to its core.

The seriousness of the events taking place sometimes feels parodied through McMahon’s representation of Maire but the evocative and heart-wrenching performance of Yolland firmly re-roots the situation as something sinister. Delap steals the show with his raw and credible portrayal of a man with a willingness to learn and everything to lose.

Conall Morrison paces the production excellently and allows the short 2-hour run time (with interval) to carry the audience on an appealing and edifying journey.

Well worth a visit by staff and students alike.*



*Brian Friel’s “Translations” is a core text on many of the English and Drama modules in the coming academic year.