The play Translations was written by Brian Friel an Irish playwright and a founder of the ‘Field Day Theatre Company’ who, for their first production, presented ‘Translations’ in 1980. The popularity of the play was so that productions were the staged regularly within England and Ireland through out the 1980’s but what was it that made the play so popular. Within the 1980’s troubles had sparked within Northern Ireland, the horrific ‘Bloody Sunday’, civil rights marches and the formation of the terrorist group calling themselves ‘The Provisional IRA’ created a deeply divided nation.
These political troubles echoed those of Irelands past when the divide between the protestant landlords and the Catholics who worked the land and were heavily taxed, like the occupants of Baile Beag in 1833, for this reason the play would have been of interest to audiences in the 1980’s as a historic background to the current events. But the play was not historically correct although it was based loosely around historic fact there were major deviances for which the play was criticised. For instance the Sappers Yolland and Lancey who are mapping Ireland using English place names, although they may have been employed by the army to map the landscape they were not soldiers and would never have had the man power to destroy the village as Yolland threatened.
The plays content is diverse attracting various audiences but the key for it success is the inclusion of the factors which engage the audience, Conflict, Anticipation, Suspense, pace and contrast. Confliction between Maire and Manus, anticipation about Maire and Lancey’s relationship, suspense when Lancey dies, pace when Owen arrives and contrast between Doalty and Jimmy Jack all examples of each of the techniques.
The humour present in the play is also an attractive feature for an audience, for instance the character Jimmy Jack’s infatuation with the ancient Greek and Latin texts leading him to believe they are true and that he is to be married to the goddess Athene. Other humour is also present in the structure of the play. The comic irony that although the characters on stage are reciting the play in English they are actually speaking Gaelic.
To the upper class the theatre was considered an intelligible place to go. The translations play was not only philosophical but political and didactical so a upper class audience would have found it fitting as well as entertaining for its humorous and human interests, such as relationships, within the script. As well as the English and Irish audiences other audiences were also present in America as well this is down to the fact that there are areas of Irish communities due to emigration. This audience would be interested as the play takes place a little before the potato famine, which caused the mass emigration to America. Overall the play had great popularity due to the vast content Willy Russell had incorporated within the story giving a factor to attract each audience type.