Saturday, 26 April 2014

Translations - Brien Friel 2014

The naming of things, the definition of boundaries, can be so soothing - to know where you are. Like this most beguiling of plays, that starts off so soft and quiet. you would not notice someone calling you a different name, why bother when Roland sounds so similar to Owen. Or Eoin. How important is it, really?
"It's an eviction of sorts"
 Translations is one of the most disturbing pieces I have seen for years. The story involves the redistribution of boundaries. The old Irish place names don't really match up with each other and and are beholden to old and forgotten stories. It's best we move on, with clearer and crisper boundaries. Right?

But with the new names the new boundaries are drawn up for... whose benefit? When a boundary is defined for the national purpose, there are usually for the nebulous "greater good". It never seems to reach the local people, whatever it is. This seems a gentle piece at first, until a seemingly random piece of violence (never confirmed) propels the second half into something deeper, darker.

I won't give you a spoiler if you have not seen the piece. But if you are dual nationality/ Dual language/ dual identity you may find yourself troubled by this. Or reassured by it's recognition of the forces that could tug at someone. As I am I can see the need for modernity. for shaping and measuring names. How can we talk except with a common and agreed language. As a second generation Irish,  British citizen I can see the damage done by the legacy of twisted history. But on the other hand, I am also aware of the damage wrought by ignorance designed to "protect" future generations. Who is it that  decides, imposes, new names? And what history, whose stories, do you erase for the arbitrary ease of your children?

The ambiguity of the piece was not softened with the violence, implied and otherwise of the final act. When someone else defines your world, why be surprised when they take it over?Language, words shape our worlds. If you do not tell your story, someone else will tell it for you. And always there is the shadow of the potato blight hanging over any potential future of the piece. It is set in 1833, years before the blight of 1845. The sweet smell never felt so ominous, especially for thopse who are aware pf what happened next

I was hoping to give you a proper or otherwise review of a play. I am too disturbed for that. This play provokes questions, and for you. I have no answers. Maybe that is the point.

Translations runs until the 03 May at the Rose Theatre, Kingston upon Thames. I would recommend that you see this rare treat.  Details here: