Tongue-tied?: An Active Analysis of Brian Friel's Translations

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This article has arisen from a research-led production of Translations by Brian Friel for Queen’s University’s Tyrone Guthrie Society in February 2010. Drawing partly on a review of the existing critical literature and also from questions left unresolved by a previous experience of directing the play, the production sought to address through ‘active analysis’ (Merlin 2001) a number of research questions relating to the embodied nature of the rehearsal process and the historicity of Friel’s play. The analysis invokes Bergson (1910), Lefebvre (1991) and Worthern (2006) in establishing a performative correlative for insightful but more literary studies by Connolly (1993), Lojek (1994) and McGrath (1989 & 1999). A detailed account of the rehearsal process helps reveal the extent to which the idea of failure of communication is embedded in the text and embodied in performance, while an experiment with the partial use of the Irish language casts further light on Friel’s extraordinary device of rendering two languages through the medium of one. The use of music to counterpoint, rather than underscore the action, together with an achronological sequence of projected historical images inspired by Andrews (1983) provided me as director a means to challenge the audience’s presuppositions about the play. The sense of palimpsest, of the layered histories, that this evoked also served to highlight Friel’s use of the wider stylistic palette of Anglo-Irish drama, revealing Translations as a forerunner for Stewart Parker’s more explicit formal experiments in Northern Star. In rehearsal and performance Friel’s place in the continuum of the Irish theatrical canon became clear, as stylistic allusions to O’Casey, Shaw, Wilde and Beckett were embodied by the actors on the rehearsal room floor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-60
Number of pages14
JournalStudies in Theatre and Performance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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