14 Aug 2022

Inishowen director to bring Brian Friel’s Translations to Donegal


'It is a matter of great pride to be able to bring this production to audiences in Donegal'

Inishowen director to bring Brian Friel’s Translations to Donegal 

Zara Devlin as Maire in a new production of Brian Friel’s Translations which is coming to An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny next month PICTURE: JOHNNY FRAZER  

A major new co-production of Brian Friel’s Translations directed by Inishowen native Caitríona McLaughlin is set to open in Donegal next month. 

Friel’s modern classic excavates small town, rural Ireland to interrogate language, the impact of words and how we communicate.

The co-production opened in the Lyric Theatre Belfast in April, before moving to Dublin for a summer run on the Abbey stage.

It will run at An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny from Tuesday, August 30 to Saturday,  September 3.

Translations is set in August 1883 in the townland of Friel’s fictional Baile Beag/Ballybeg where an Irish-speaking community in Donegal has become the unlikely focal point of a changing world.  Plans for a new English-speaking national school are in motion, and a group of English Royal Engineers have arrived to map the area.

Many of Friel’s plays centre around a rural town where language, myth and history thrive within a small community, and the geography of north Donegal is crucial for this production. The play has many levels to it, but primarily it is about language. While the play is performed in English throughout, the central premise is that all characters speak in their native language, so the English characters cannot understand the Irish characters and vice versa. Friel brilliantly explores the idea that real communication is not about language. It is about understanding and a commitment to engage fully in what makes us different from each other. Translations takes place at a moment of possibility and change in Ireland but not everyone is sure that change is needed. Landmarks and town names are given alternate meanings and the characters of Baile Beag work through the defacing of their heritage and history. 

Caitríona McLaughlin, who is the Abbey Theatre’s artistic director, hails from Carndonagh, and is deeply connected to the people and stories in the play.

“My great grandfather, Charles MacConigley, was the master of a new schoolhouse in 1905, in Fanad, County Donegal. He had been teaching for 23 years at that stage, where exactly he taught before then, we don’t know. I like to imagine it was wherever he could, in a barn perhaps or a hedge? I do know his son, my grandfather, would quote Latin and Greek and spoke Irish.  I grew up myself amongst the placenames and politics at the centre of this story, surrounded by Brigids, Doaltys and Jimmy Jacks. I love the play, it’s world and language and of course, it could not be more pertinent today, not only in the context of Brexit, as we are looking more and more to Europe and the EU for partnership and collaboration, but also because as a nation we are once more in a moment of change and possibility, a time when our language and how we communicate is central to who we are, who we will become and the kind of society we want to live in. It is a matter of great pride to be able to bring this production to audiences in Donegal.”

For more information and to book tickets visit the An Grianán website.

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