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An Irish drama with sadness, longing, drinking and dancing

By Herald Express  |  Posted: March 27, 2014

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English Touring Theatre, Northcott Theatre, Exeter

TRANSLATIONS is a play which does, more or less, live up to its title.

Set in 1830s Donegal we have a world where the locals can only speak Gaelic and where English soldiers have come to survey and map the countryside.

In doing so they will change local Irish place names to English equivalents. It's an attempt to remake Ireland in the image of England.

The major barrier between the two cultures is language. Thus it needs translation to sort out some of the issues. Add in to the plot a romantic young English Lieutenant Yolland and an earthy Irish woman Marie who with no common language fall in love.

A great deal of the humour of the play, and there's plenty of laughs, is based around the confusions of understanding.

Friel handles events with a light touch and manages, to help we audience members, to have everyone speaking English even when it is meant to be Gaelic. Quite a clever device.

The strength of the play is in the creation of a small inward looking society where change is hitting them big time. A very up to the moment theme.

There are some characters who embrace the change, who are desperate to break out of the suffocating lifestyle, while others hope it will just go away.

With a title like Translations you would expect the play to be wordy. And boy it is.

As you would expect with an Irish drama there is also sadness, longing, drinking and dancing.

Those who have seen Brian Friel's magnificent play, Dancing at Lughnasa, will recognise the themes are the same.

The important extra ingredient, in the story telling, are the range of highly colourful and lively characters.

A small town world is brought alive before our eyes. Niall Buggy, a very recognisable actor, who plays the non-stop drinking school master and father dominates the stage with his Latin and Greek sayings, while the lovers Beth Cooke (pictured) and James Northcote provide a Romeo and Juliet relationship with a difference.

In general this is a company of strong performances all round.

English Touring Theatre Company are no strangers to Exeter.

They popped up last year with The Misanthrope.

This is their 21st year of touring.

They guarantee to bring what we wouldn't otherwise get a chance to see. Here's to the next time.


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