The Act One production of Translations was hosted at Llanover Hall, Canton, not far from student darling Chapter, in the cold evenings of mid-March. The British flags pasted over the doorway upon entrance might have fooled you into thinking you were entering a patriotic, pro-British play, but you couldn’t be further from the truth.
Written in 1980 by Irish playwright Brian Friel, Translations is a play well known in Ireland and is even on the leaving cert, and is a sharp critique of British imperialism. I brought my Irish dad along to offer a crucial perspective on the performance, and we turned up for 7 O’clock, but for the first half an hour as a few more people trickled into the little hall it was just drunken, decrepit old man Jimmy, played by Harry Spencer, and mute girl Sarah, played by Emily Barnden, on stage. As the play began however, we were transported to the small barn-based hedge school that the young people of the small Irish town attended in the evenings for instruction in Maths, Greek and Latin. Special mention must go to the work of Emma Stevens, who taught the cast to put on an Irish accent that on several occasions sounded genuine.
The whole play is spoken in English but the characters are supposedly speaking in a traditional Irish dialect a lot of the time, the only way to tell the difference is by what accent they use. Whilst the story of the play itself doesn’t end anywhere in particular, the members of Act One, particularly the brothers Manus and Owen played by Will Pritchard and Lawrence Quilty, put on a lovely insight into an Ireland which has since been all but eradicated as a result of cultural imperialism by Britain- and even here in Wales- it’s certainly food for thought.