Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Cultural colonialism was seriously on the agenda when Brian Friel’s play about language, identity and a whole lot more things beyond words premiered in 1980. Set in 19th century rural Ireland, it’s the sort of big historical play in terms of scale, theme and metaphor that doesn’t get written much these days. Which is why it’s such a treat to see Andy Arnold’s new production for his Arches company being given space to breathe on the Citz’s main stage just across the river. With Arnold’s appointment as new artistic director of The Tron announced last Friday, it’s something we should be prepared to get used to.
A make-shift school in a barn becomes the hub of the community, only to be rocked by the return of the school-teacher’s son. Now a translator for the British army, his masters are intent on re-mapping the landscape with place-names of their own beyond a Gaelic they can’t understand, but which reflect the rhythm of the village.
Arnold embraces the play’s full rough-shod poignancy, as Tim Barrow’s spellbound young Lieutenant and Muireann Kelly’s young girl who wants only to learn English and flee to America skirt around a soon to be doomed romance in the play’s most beautiful scene.
Ireland’s conflicts of self-determination may not be so volatile today, so Friel’s play now looks to be more broadly about change being enforced for what a ruling clique think is progress. A desire to homogenise things in their own image, however, with little heed paid to what’s being lost, is still pertinent.. Translations is laying bare the foundations for the theme-parking of a past that was once stamped out without mercy.
The Herald, January 28th 2008