Next year for the first time we are studying Brian Friel's 1980 play Translations in the comparative section of the Leaving Cert. Conall Morrison's new production at the Abbey Theatre is a good opportunity to remind ourselves of its qualities in the flesh. Unfortunately the production closes in mid-August, so it's not on during term-time.
Last night's performance was most enjoyable - a well-paced and modulated telling of the story. Naomi Wilkinson's set design features a tall wooden stockade, and maybe those in Hugh's hedge-school are indeed under siege. All sorts of forces threaten to change this world - the new national school system, the future dominance of English, the allusions to the 'sweet smell' of the potato blight that, in a dozen years, will devastate the country. At the end Hugh and Jimmy Jack stagger in drunkenly, ignorant of the disaster that is visiting their community, in an echo of Captain Boyle and Joxer Daly in Juno and the Paycock.
The intellectual underpinnings of the play were not forced on us, however, coming second to human relationships. The emotional core was provided by three excellent performances by Aaron Monaghan as Manus, Aoife McMahon was Maire, and a very engaging Tim Delap as Lieutenant Yolland. The last two played the well-known love scene straight after the interval perfectly. Donal O'Kelly's Jimmy Jack started with too much Oirishness, but settled down in the second half.
We definitely recommend a visit to the Abbey.