My favourite play of all time,
This review is from: Translations (Faber Paperbacks) (Paperback)
I remember picking this play up, and wondering if it would be able to capture my interest, because I am a reluctant reader. There is, however, something about this work that makes you want to keep reading. All the characters are interesting, especially Hugh Mor O'Donnell, and you find yourself loving some and hating others.
I used to think that when you hated a character it was because they were not a good creation, but it is quite the opposite really. And Maire Chatach in Translations, has the same effect on me as Mr Skimpole in Bleak House, she evokes instant dislike. Her selfishness and the attachment she develops to the foreigner George Yolland are central to the Story, and help bring about the climax to the play. She abandons Manus, the crippled Irish teacher, for the stronger English soldier and there is perhaps an allusion here to the shedding of the Irish language in favour of English, by the Irish peasantry.
I read 'Making History' after reading this one and didn't like it half as much. The banter in the hedge school particulary that between Hugh and Doalty is extremely funny and provides an anti-dote to the depressing central theme of the play - Colonisation and the wilful destruction of the Irish Language and Culture.
If you read this and the first chapter of Ulysses together, you can see the effect of what takes place in Translations. In Friel's play, set notionally in 1815, the main language of Bally Beag was Gaelic, and it was the only language the Hedge School pupils other than Jimmy Jack Cassie, really understood. By 16th June 1904, the peasantry, represented by the milk woman, are unable to even recognise their own language.