Translations at Oranmore Castle

BRIAN FRIEL’S classic play Translations comes to the Galway Arts Festival next week in an innovative site-specific staging from Ouroboros Theatre Company at Oranmore Castle.

The production is part of a pioneering collaboration between Ouroboros and the Office Of Public Works and sees the company present 20 performances of Friel’s play in eight OPW locations around the country.

The ambitious partnership between Ouroboros and the OPW is a first in Europe and a unique merging of a theatre company and a state body to mutually promote historical plays and historical sites.

These site-specific performances will take place at locations largely unfamiliar with theatre performances - such as Oranmore Castle, Portumna Castle, and Athenry Castle - and the staging of the play itself utilises the historical value of each venue, drawing out their close bonds to the stories that make up the identity of the Irish people.

Ahead of the company’s arts festival performances, Ouroboros company manager Cathal Courtney revealed how the partnership with the OPW came about.

“We first worked with the OPW last year on our tour of Brian Friel’s Making History which we mounted to mark the tercentenary of the Flight of the Earls,” he says. “They wanted to raise public awareness of their sites and we wanted to bring theatre to areas where it isn’t normally seen so the partnership worked well for both of us in that regard.

“We toured Making History around a number of OPW sites and it was a very positive experience for both organisations and on the basis of that we decided to work together again with this production of Translations.”

Courtney reveals that a lot of thought went into the choice of play and venues for the tour.

“Translations is a play about language and identity and about how the Famine brought an end to that whole Gaelic culture,” he says. “The OPW big houses and castles where the play is touring are historic venues that mirror the complexity of Irish identity; they act as ambivalent symbols that provide a rich backdrop for the play’s performances.”

Translations is regarded as Brian Friel’s theatrical masterpiece. Set in Donegal in 1833, where the tour opens, the play tells the story of a small community on the brink of irrevocable change.

Translations has compelled audiences the world over to consider the fundamental nature of language, its connection to culture, and its relationship to power.

Set in rural Ireland just before the Irish Famine, it explores the impact on local characters struggling to adjust to the shifting dynamics of the world around them, manifested by the imposition of the English language and the mapping and translating of Gaelic place names into English by the ruling British.

In this “haunting but hugely rewarding play” (New York Times ), Ireland’s greatest living dramatist creates a world in which language becomes conscious of itself as it battles to represent and shape the differing cultures it encounters.

Ouroboros Theatre Ireland’s production of Translations is directed by Andrew Flynn and features John Olohan, Brendan Conroy, Charlie Bonner, Owen McDonnell, Kate Brennan, Janet Moran, Tara Lynne O’Neill, Conan Sweeny, Chris Moran, and Rod Goodall. Costume design is by award winner designer Sinead Cuthberth.

Translations is staged at Oranmore Castle from Tuesday July 22 to Saturday 26 at 8pm nightly as part of the arts festival. Its national tour includes performances at Portumna Castle (August 23 and 24 ) and Athenry Castle (August 26 and 27 ). Tickets are €25 including free programme. For tickets contact the Galway Arts Festival Box Office, 1-5 Merchants Road, on 091-566577.

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