Roman Calendar

Random Greco-Roman Image

Friday, April 10, 2009


Friday, January 25, 2008
Sunday Herald Andy Arnold Brian Friel’s Translations
The tongue twister
A new production of Brian Friel's translations shows the Irish playwright has finally taken his rightful place on our national stage
By Mark Brown
IT MAY have been more by accident than design but when the Citizens' Theatre Company in Glasgow staged its award-winning production of Brian Friel's Molly Sweeney in 2005, it was beginning something of a late-flourishing love affair between Scottish theatre and the veteran Irish playwright. Since then, Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre has staged Friel's 1977 play Living Quarters, the National Theatre of Scotland has revived 1994's Molly Sweeney for a national tour, and London's Attic Theatre visited Scotland with Afterplay and The Bear, a Friel double-bill inspired by Chekhov.

Now, as its first production of 2008, Glasgow's Arches Theatre Company is appearing at the Citizens' with Friel's acclaimed drama Translations. Written in 1980, at the height of the Troubles, the play is set in County Donegal in the 1830s in a "hedge school" - the name given to those schools which, in defiance of the penal laws, provided Irish children with a Catholic education.

Requiring a 10-strong cast, the play explores the politics of language - the British are attempting to forcibly repress the speaking of Irish - through the prism of complex relations between Irish and English characters. To complicate matters further, there are also the strained relations between Owen, a thriving city man who has a career in Dublin and speaks both English and Gaelic, and his Irish-speaking Donegal friends and relations.

Andy Arnold, who directs the new Arches production, has wanted to stage the play for 12 years, but has only now secured the rights to produce it.
"I think it's Friel's greatest play," he says. "It's set in a particular time and place, and you can't escape that, in terms of the 1830s in Ireland and what's going on there. However, the issue of language, in particular, has universal appeal, and a particular resonance here in Scotland."

Actor Cara Kelly, who performed in Sam Mendes's acclaimed 1993 production of Translations at London's Donmar Warehouse, praises the subtlety of Friel's writing. Indeed much of the power of his play lies in his ability to broach the biggest political questions through the most ambiguous human interactions.

"He is a very political writer, but it's oblique," says Kelly. "A lot of great Irish writing is oblique. There's not an absolute certainty as to what it means. I think that's one of the fascinating things about it."

Arnold agrees. "I always say that Translations is the best political play that's ever been written, but it hasn't got one political statement in it," he says. "It's all about real people, and you care for them greatly, and you see everything being destroyed in front of your eyes, almost without any resistance. It's so appalling that, whatever your political persuasion, you're greatly moved by it. And that's how it should be - the best political theatre appeals to people whatever their politics."

Audiences who have seen the recent productions of Molly Sweeney and Living Quarters will understand what Arnold means. Friel's writing promotes a remarkable degree of empathy. Although the central characters in those plays - a blind woman facing the prospect of restorative surgery, and a latter-day Irish military hero losing his new, young wife - are very specific, their emotions are so brilliantly expressed by the playwright that we identify strongly with them.

For Kelly, the previous neglect of Friel in Scotland is a source of bemusement. "It always puzzled me why Friel seemed to be ignored by Scottish theatre. Round the corner from the Citizens' Theatre, there's a bus leaving for Donegal every night of the week. They had a ready-made audience that would have gone to see him. They did O'Casey and Synge, but not Friel.

"Friel was happening in Ireland, and in London, and in New York. But in Scotland writers like Alan Ayckbourn were preferred to him, and yet Friel has far more resonance with Scottish audiences than the Ayckbourns of this world."

It's a case well put, and hard to argue against. However, with this latest major Friel production, the third in less than three years, it appears that Scottish theatre has belatedly realised that the writer belongs in the pantheon of Irish greats.

Translations is at the Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow from January 23 to February 2


Kathleen TAPA LEAT (thanks) for sharing the news of the premiere of Brian Friel's TRANSLATIONS; Scottish Gaeldom could use such a playwright as well.

When a culture is in its historical phase of growing towards unity, its language reflects the unite and power whereas when a culture is in the process of change, dispersal and disintegration a language likewise loses its power and prestige.

This happened in the Irish Gaeltacht 1650-to 1850 and the Scottish Highlands, particularly after Culloden and the Clearances.

Friel captures this phenomenon of assimilation and subtractive bilingualism with great feeling and art. He shows for example that the abandonment of the ancient lingua franca of the Irish Gaels was as much their own conscious decision as a response to rapidly changing social and economic conditions as something they were coerced into.

Without economic regeneration and without local political autonomy minority linguistic groups tend to be dispersed and assimilated into the larger dominant linguistic culture.

For a language and culture to live young people must believe in it and society must respect it and foster it. There is hope for the survival of Gaelic today simply because the attitude of people and the government towards the language has changed. But the ever-increasing centrifugal force of economic migration away from Gaelic-speaking fishing and farming communities and to the cities of Britain and abroad, the impact of English media and intermarriage all cast a shadow on the future of the language.

The first Scottish Gaelic periodical to engage in linguistic self-defense and revitalization in a conscious manner was An Gàidheal / The Gael. Interestingly enough it was founded in the exiled community of Gaels in Toronto, Canada and only later moved to Glasgow. Its publisher was Angus Nicholson and the first words on the first page of the first issue (July 1871) make his agenda clear:

Tha an Gàidheal òg so a cur failte chridheil air gach co-bhrathair Gaidhealach, air feadh an t-shaoghail fharsuing, a thuigeas an canain a tha e labhairt. Bha e na fhior dhuilichinn linne, bho chionn fada, nach robh paipeir na leabhar sam bith de'n t-sheorsa so aig na Gaidheil nan cainnt mhaithreil (eadhon an Alba fhein) ni a tha na Goill gu minig le tair a cur an ceill, mar dhearbhadh nach 'eil an cainnt no na sgriobhuidhean againn airidh air an cur a mach no 'n cumail air chuimhne ann an leabhraichean no paipeirean naigheachd agus nach robh anns na Gaidheil ach sluagh fiadhaich, borb, aig nach robh suim da leithid.
This young Gael sends a heart-felt welcome to each fellow Gael throughout the wide world who understands the language that he speaks.

We have considered it a true hardship, for a long time, that the Gaels did not have any newspaper or book of this kind in their mother tongue (even in Scotland itself), a situation that English-speakers frequently express with contempt as proof that our language and our literature are not worthy of putting out or recording in books or in newspapers, and that Gaels are merely a wild and barbarous people who placed no importance in such matters.

There is no question that without street and road signs, without Gaelic language maps -as now are available in places like Inverness, without sports broadcasts, without menus, without museum pamphlets and translations, without radio broadcasts, films or song recordings, without schooling -including Gaelic medium schools and Celtic language departments-Gaelic would totally lack exposure , dignity and prestige. A language will only survive if it is useful, loved, and honored as an indispensable part of one's culture and heritage, national or otherwise.

I hope it is true what the bard Niall MacLeoid sang:

Cha 'n fhas an eachdraidh lag le aois
'S cha' n fhaigh a' Ghaidhlig bas.

(History will not die of old age
and neither will Old Gaelic die).

How much shall she live? That we do not know but we know she is in her last innings. But we will be rooting for her -and praying for her- to the very last. Dileas gu bas air muir agus air tir! (Leal til death on land and on sea!). Yes I say to all, especially to lowland and Highland Scots, CUM GAIDHLIG BEO....keep the ancient tongue of the Gael alive!

Everything depends on the last cohorts of young Highland women and their children as well as the sympathy and support of the greater Scottish and British community.

Ah yes, one thing is certain, at least, NON OMNIS MORIAR we can say to her....THOU SHALT NOT WHOLLY DIE..."

Yesterday, in the San Joaquin Valley, USA, we heard young women sing ORAN MOR MHICLEOID (the Big Song of MacLeod),

in the hall where once music sounded
and the haunt of bards is now
without joy, without pleasure, without conviviality,
without sport,without play,
without the serried ranks of drinking horns,
without generous hospitality towards men of learning,
without joyful festive spirit and without tuneful voices!

and THEID MI DHACHAIDH ( I will go homeward)

Theid mi dhachaidh ho ro dhachaidh, ( I will go homeward)
Theid mi dhachaidh chro Chin t-Saile, the cattle fold of Kintail
Theid mi dhachaidh ho ro dhachaidh, ( I will go homeward
Theid mi dhachaidh chro Chinn t-Saile. (Aye, I will go homeward to the cattle fold of Kintail)

and O Teannaibh Dluth Is Togaibh Fonn (COME CLOSE AND RAISE UP A SONG)

O beir an t-soraidh seo nis bhuam ( Now take this greeting from me ))
Thar chuain is chruaich is bheannaibh (Over the ocean, hills and mountains
A dh' ionnsaigh Muile nam beann fuar (To Mull of the cool high bens )
O eilean uaine a' bharraich (And the green island of the birch trees )

Gur truagh a' Ghàidhlig bhi 'na càs (It's a pity Gaelic is in such a poor state )
O 'n dh' fhalbh na Gàidheil a bh' againn (Since the clearing o' the Gaels that were once there)
A ghineil òig tha tighinn 'nan àit' (Oh young people who take their place )
O togaibh suas a bratach (Please unfurl the Gaelic banner)

Thanks again...

MISE LE MEAS (that's me with respect)


Since it is Good Friday and we are in communion with the saints, there is an old one but a good one:

1) Child questions his mother: “Why don’t male angels have beards?
Mother answers: “Because men get into heaven by a close shave.”

2) Is mine min na gran, ‘TIS FINER MEAL COMPAIRED TO GRAIN
Is mine mnai na fir! AND FINER THAN ARE WOMEN THAN MEN.”

A very Highland sentiment and of course very polite to womankind.

3) Am saighdear as fhaide chaidh on taigh,
,’s e an ceol bu binne chuala e riamh THEID MI DACHAIGH”
The sweetest music he ever heard was “THEID MI DACHAIDH”)
Which means “Going Home” a lovely melody called also the Seaforth Lullaby)

Kintail" (Theid Mi Dhachaidh Chró Chinn T-Sáile) - "I will go home to Kintail" –is a Gaelic song which deals with the perennial themes of exile and return. In piping circles the tune is sometimes known as "The Seaforth Lullaby", and bears all the hallmarks of the pibroch-song tradition. Along with Lord Lovat’s Lament it is one of the most beloved and memorable piping tunes.
Christine Primrose, who should know, told me it was written after the bloody Battle of Sheriffmuir (1715) during one of the last Highland Risings against the authority of the Crown. According to the Gaelic Society of Inverness, we have only a fragment of the original poem.,M1

A) Talitha MacKenzie and the Browne Sisters (of California) have made wonderful, evocative recordings of this haunting melody. (SOLAS)


Good Celtic music is a place "full up of cianalas" that is to say Celtic nostalgia or strong feelings of deep love, feeling, regret, joy and I will add a touch of mysticism. THE BROWNE SISTERS and George Cavanaugh in READY FOR THE STORM have this.
They sing CRO CHINN T-SAILE is one of the 'Big Songs' and the Browne Sisters do it justice. You might recognize "Theid mi dhachaidh" as one of the moving instrumental melodies on the great ROB ROY CD.
Both technically and emotionally, their performance here is very expressive: pure Highland silk.

Yet one of my favorite Highland sayings is this:

4) Cha nigh na tha dh’uisge Not all the water in the sea could wash away
Sa mhuir ar cairdeas. Our kinship, our friendship, our fellowship.

SO says the leal and true mon.

No comments: