The best kind of theatre has something important to say – but never allows the message to interfere with the entertainment. Brian Friel is a playwright who has that balance down to a fine art.
Sheffield Theatres are presenting a season of three of his plays over the next few weeks, beginning with Translations, which runs at the Crucible until March 8.
It’s a play with several themes: the power of language and communication and how words can mislead; the use and misuse of political and military power; the relative value of one culture over another. And if it all sounds rather heavyweight, don’t be alarmed; it explores them all via a story which held the first night audience enthralled, and an ensemble cast of engaging characters no one can fail to warm to.
As well as a tale of conflict and misunderstanding between 19th century rural Irish and the incoming English army, which begins in sunshine and comedy and grows steadily darker, there’s also exuberant dance and romance, and an emotional rollercoaster which veers through joy, despair, love, loathing, fear, jealousy and old-fashioned fun.
It’s the kind of theatre that makes you laugh and cry, and, above all, makes you think.