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 Hampstead & Highgate Stories

Yesterday, 18:00

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Norwegian announced today a partnership that sees the award-winning airline named presenting partner of the NBA London Game 2019.

Yesterday, 17:00

Saracens forward set for another spell on the sidelines

Yesterday, 14:00

Mark McCall was left counting the cost of Saracens’ bruising Heineken Champions Cup battle with Glasgow Warriors.

Yesterday, 16:23

Up to 100 children looted cheap sweets from a supermarket off Stroud Green Road and threw missiles at cars in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Yesterday, 14:31

A third-floor room was badly damaged in a fire in Golders Green on Saturday night.

Yesterday, 13:29

The draw for the first qualifying round of the FA Trophy has been made

Yesterday, 12:30

A look at how some of Tottenham Hotspur’s players fared while on international duty over the weekend

Yesterday, 10:00

Bostik Premier: Burgess Hill Town 3 Haringey Borough 1

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now