A FESTIVAL OF FRIEL: Curve, Leicester.
TRANSLATIONS, Brian Friel
Runs 2h 0m. One interval
MOLLY SWEENEY, Brian Friel
Runs 2h 30m.One interval
In repertory to 4 December
Review: Ian Spiby, Friday 12 November
Don’t miss these excellent productions of two Friel classics.
Friel’s plays concern themselves with the evanescence of human experience: how we can never know what is “real” because any reality there might be is always filtered through the human mind.
In TRANSLATIONS he tackles the problem of language. In a hedge school in 19th century Ireland, the Gaelic-speaking pupils are taught Latin and Greek but not English; one character, Sarah is dumb and communicates through signs; English soldiers who are in the area to make a map, have a Gaelic translator who tells each side what he thinks they want to hear, rather than what they are actually saying. During the map-making exercise, Irish place-names are Anglicized, but there is no standardized version in Gaelic: different people call the same place by different names.
Only when an English soldier and an Irish girl fall in love is there any real communication and in a brilliant scene, they declare their love for one another through reciting those Gaelic place names.
Direction (Mick Gordon), and design (Juliet Shillingford) are impeccable. The simple set is a plain floor, covered with straw and peat, onto which is placed a rough table, stools, a cart, and a number of various odds and ends. This is enhanced by the lighting of Mark Howland and the soundscape (birds singing, rain falling etc) of Fergus O’Hare which all result in an atmospheric creation of rural Ireland. Performances too, are equally effective, each one pitched at exactly the right level, from the ebullient Owen (Patrick Moy) to the delicate, love-lost, dumb girl, Sarah (Tilly Gaunt)
In MOLLY SWEENEY, a woman regains her sight after 40 years’ blindness and has to learn to interpret the world entirely anew. In addition, her story is told in retrospect so we have the added prism of memory which obscures even further what is illusion and what, reality.
This time, Juliet Shillingford provides a crumbling, decaying room which exudes memories of the past and director Selina Cartmell places her characters in ever-shifting positions and postures within it. This is aided by Mark Howland’s outstanding lighting which constantly illuminates them in different ways and from different angles. The whole thing comes together as a richly evocative image of the play and the themes within it.
Molly Sweeney is played by Simone Kirby with a supreme delicacy of touch and in this she is aided by the contrasting style of Des McAleer as her ophthalmic surgeon, Mr Rice. My sympathy went out on the first night to Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Molly’s husband Frank who has taken over the role at very short notice and who was forced to use the script as a memory-aid towards the end. This meant that after a superb first half, he was somewhat under par in the second, but I am sure that this will be remedied very quickly.
The Curve is to be commended for putting on two excellent performances of an outstanding playwright whose work we see far too seldom.
TRANSLATIONS. Cast: Manus: Paul Mallon, Sarah: Tilly Gaunt, Jimmy Jack: Ciaran McIntyre, Máire: Emily Taafe, Doalty: Kyle Riley, Bridget: Siobhán McSweeney, Hugh: Peter Dineen, Owen: Patrick Moy, Captain Lancey: Paul Moriarty, Lieutenant Yolland: Richard Pryal.
Director: Mick Gordon, Designer: Juliet Shillingford, Lighting Designer: Mark Howland, Sound Designer: Fergus O’Hare, Costume Supervisor: Chris Cahill, Company Stage Manager: Charlotte Warner, Deputy Stage Manager: Katie Browning, Assistant Stage Manager: Tori Rowley, Production Stage Manager: Michael Conlon, Rehearsal and Production Photography: Johan Persson, Voice and Dialect Coach; Sally Hague, Casting: Juliette Stark
MOLLY SWEENEY: Cast: Molly: Simone Kirby, Frank: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Mr Rice: Des McAleer
Director: Selina Cartmell, Deputy Stage Manager: Marissa Ferguson, Rehearsal Photography: Pamela Raith, Casting: Sam Jones.
All other roles as above.