Brian Friel: Quotations


Original Works
The Enemy Within
Philadelphia, Here I
   Come
The Loves of Cass Maguire
Freedom of the City
Volunteers
Living Quarters
Aristocrats
Faith Healer
Translations
Making History
Dancing at Lughnasa
Wonderful Tennessee
“The Theatre of Hope and Despair”
“Self-Portrait

Sundry Comments
Identity
Peasant mind
The English language
English words
Modern Ireland
Bloody Sunday
Translations Journal
Staging history
Irish national theatre
Field Day Co.
St Columb’s
James Joyce


Listen to Translations [showtime 1:50:46] on RTÉ (2012) - online [accessed 11.05.201].

Friel once said: “You delve into a particular corner of yourself that’s dark and uneasy, and you articulate the confusions and unease, then you acquire other corners of unease and discontent.” (Quoted in Richard Pine, obituary notice, The Guardian, 2 Oct. 2015 - available online; accessed 7.04.2017.)

Living lines: Friel’s finest dramas
  • ‘Impermanence - anonymity - that’s what I’m looking for; a vast restless place
    that doesn’t give a damn about the past.’ (Philadelphia, Here I Come!, 1964.)
  • ‘They died for their beliefs. They died for their fellow citizens. They died because they could endure no longer the injuries and injustices and indignities that have been their lot for too many years.’ (The Freedom of the City, 1973.)
  • ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not - it’s part of the Butler lore.’ (Living Quarters, 197.7)
  • ‘Even the people who came to him - they weren’t just sick people who were confused and frightened and wanted to be cured; no, no; to him they were ... yes, they were real enough, but not real as persons, real as fictions, his fictions, extensions of himself, that came into being only because of him.’ (Faith Healer, 1979.)
  • ‘Less than twenty-four hours away from London and already we’re reverting to drunken Paddies. Must be the environment, mustn’t it?’ (Aristocrats, 1979.)
  • ‘Yes, it is a rich language Lieutenant, full of the mythologies of fantasy and hope and self-deception - a syntax opulent with tomorrows. It is our response to mud cabins and a diet of potatoes.’ (Translations, 1980.)
  • ‘When I remember it, I think of it as dancing ... Dancing as if language had surrendered to movement - as if this ritual, this wordless ceremony, was now the way to speak, to whisper private and sacred things, to be in touch with some otherness ...Dancing as if language no longer existed because words were no longer necessary.’ (Dancing at Lughnasa, 1990.)
    ‘The planter has to be resilient. No home, no country, a life of isolation and resentment.’ (The Home Place, 2005.)
—See “Friel at 80”, in The Irish Times (27 June 2011).

‘Watch her carefully, every movement, every gesture, every little peculiarity, Keep the camera whirring; for this is a film you’ll run over and over again – Madge Going To Bed On My Last Night At Home [...]’ (Philadelphia, Here I Come!)

On Irish theatrical naturalism
‘I’m sick of the naturalistic style as I’m sure you are - And the dilemma is this. The use of everyday and recognisable melodies and harmonies effects a quick and direct relationship bewen the audience and stage - that's an attraction and can be valuable. But it’s as soon as you establish that relationship - and it’s made precisely because the turnes are familiar - that an almost instant communion becomes a trap.’ (Letter to Seamus Deane, 1 Nov. 1974

(Quoted in Ciaran Deane, ‘Brian Friel’s Translations: The Origins of a Cultural Experiment’, in Field Day Review, 5, 2009, p.79; cited in Shaun Richards, ‘A Dramatic Form “at the end of its tether”: Brian Friel and the Irish Peasant Play’ [lecture], in Proceedings of the Irish Research Group, Natal, Brasil, in 2013.)


On directors
‘I want a director to call rehearsals, to make sure the actors are there on time and to get them to speak their lines clearly and distinctly,” he said. “I’ve no interest whatever in his concept or interpretation.’ (Quoted in Irish Times obituary, 2 Sept. 2015.)

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The Enemy Within (1962), Columba: ‘A man’s enemies – they of his own household’ (Collected Plays, ed. Seamus Deane, p.20.) ‘Don’t wedge my frailties betwen my soul and its maker!’ (CP, p.30.) ‘... Get out of my life! Go back to those damned mountains and seductive hills that have roobed me of my Christ! You soaked my sweat! You sucked my blood! You stole my manhood, my best years! What more do you damned of me, damned Ireland? My soul? My immortal soul? Damned, damned, damned Ireland. [stage direction: ‘His voice breaks’; ‘Soft, green Ireland – beautiful green Ireland, my lovely green Ireland. Oh my Ireland.’ (CP, p.70).

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Philadelphia, Here I Come, Gar Private: ‘I’ve stuck around this hole far too long. I’m telling you, it’s a bloody quagmire, a backwater, a dead-end! And everybody in it goes crazy sooner or later! Everybody!’ (CP, p.79.) ‘Now, even though you refuse to acknowledge the fact, Screwballs, I’m leaving forever [...] And you know why I’m going, Screwballs, don’t you? Beacuase I’m twenty-five and you treat me as if I were five – I can’t even order a dozen loaves with getting your permission [...] But worse, far worse than that Screwballs, because we embarrass one another [...] and even though I’ll be on that plane tomorrow morning I’ll have doubts; maybe I should have stuck it out; maybe the old codger did have feelings; maybe I have maligned the old bastard. So now, Screwballs, say [...] say, “Gar son – ” say “Gar, you bugger you, why don’t you stick it out here with me for it’s not such a bad aul bugger of a place.” Go on. Say! Say it! Say it!’ (CP, p.49.) ‘Say –oh, my God –say – say – something’ (CP, p.92.) [Of Madge: ] ‘Watch her carefully, every movement, every gesture, every little peculiarity, Keep the camera whirring; for this is a film you’ll run over and over again – Madge Going To Bed On My Last Night At Home ...’ (CP, p.99.)

Philadelphia, Here I Come! (1965), Gar Private: ‘You know what you are doing, don’t you, laddybuck? Collecting memories and images and impressions that are going to make you bloody miserable; and in a way tat’s what you want, isn’t it? (Philadelphia, p.16.) (Gar Private to Canon O’Byrne:) ‘...because you could translate all this loneliness, this groping, this dreadful bloody buffoonery into Christian terms that will make life bearable for us all. And yet you don’t say a word. Why, Canon? Why, arid Canon? Isn’t it your job? - to translate?’ (Philadelphia, p.88; Coll Plays, p.88). Gar: ‘Impermanence - anonymity - that’s what I’m looking for; a vast restless place that doesn’t give a damn about the past. To hell with Ballybeg, that’s what I say!’ [79].

Loves of Cass Maguire (1966), Cass: ‘What’s this goddam play called? The Loves of Cass Maguire. Who’s Cass Maguire. Me! Me! And they’ll see what happens in the order I want them to see it; and there will be no going back to the past!’ (LCM, p.12).

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The Mundy Scheme (1969): ‘Ladies and Gentelmen: What hppens when a small nation that has been manipulated and abused by a huge colonial power for hundreds of years wrrests its freedom by blood and anguish? What happens to an emerging country after it has emerged? Does the transition fro dependence to independence induce a fatigue, a mediocrity, an ennui? Or does the clean spirit of idealism that fired the people to freedom augment itself, grow bolder, more revolutionary, more generous? / The answer to many of these questions can be found in Ireland, a little island in the Atlantic Ocean, 350 miles long, 150 miles broad, and with a population of about four million people. For seven hundred years this little island was occupied and oppressed by the English, who treated the natives as serfs and who even tried to supplant the Catholic religion, which was beloved by the natives, by the Protestant faith, which – which wasn’t really suited to the moist and temperate climate. Many times the people rose up against their overlords but each time they were beaten down and reduced to even greater serfdom. Eventually, however, in the year 1916, led by a [xiv] handful of idealists they rose again and this time they overthrew the English. / After their rebellion, it was a strange experience for these hardy island people to find themselves their own masters; and they were so confused that for a time they squabbled among themselves. But they soon realized that they had better put their little green isle in order if they hoped to create the nation that the idealists of 1916 would have been proud of. (In Two Plays by Brian Friel: Crystal and Fox and The Mundy Scheme, NY: Farrar & Straus 1970, pp.157-58; quoted in Richard Pine, The Disappointed Bridge: Ireland and the Post-Colonial World (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2014, pp.xiv-v; also [in part] in Munira Mutran, Munira Mutran, ‘The Two Mirrors of Brian Friel in The Munday Scheme and Dancing at Lughnasa’, in Ritual Remembering: History, Myth and Politics in Anglo-Irish Drama, ed. C. C. Barfoot & Rias van den Doel, Amsterdam: Rodopi 1995, p.137.

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Freedom of the City (1973) - Judge: ‘We are not conducting a social survey (CP, p.108) [...] our only function is to form an objective view of the events which occurred in the City of Londonderry,m Northerin Ireland, on the tenth day of February, 1970 [...] It is essentially a fact-finding exercise [...] The facts we garner over the coming days may indicate that the deceased were callous terrorists ...’ (CP, p.109.) Dodds: ‘with a culture of poverty [...] [they] only know their own troubles [...] but they don’t have the knowledge or vision or the ideology to see their problems are also the problems of the poor in the ghettoes of New York and London and Paris and Dublin – in fact all over the Western world’ (CP, p.111.) Lily: ‘I knew I was going to die, instinctively, the way an animal know.’ (p.150.) Skinner [in reply to the question‘Why did you march today?’]: ‘Because you live with eleven children and a sick husband in two rooms that aren’t fit for animals. Because you live on state subsistence that’s about enough to keep you alive but too small to fire your guts. [...] you were outraged. That’s what it’s all about. [...] It’s about us – the poor – the majority – stirring in our sleep. And if it’s not what it’s about, then it has nothing to do with us.’ (CP, p.154.) [Michael wants] ‘a decent job, a decent place to live, a decent town to bring up our children in [...] And we want fair play, too, so that no matter what our religion is, no matter what our politics are, we have the same chances and the same opportunities as the next fella’ (CP, p.161.) Stage directions: ‘The air is filled with fifteen-second burst of automatic fire. It stops. The three stand as before, staring out, their hands behind their heads.’ (CP, 169).

See also Friel’s remarks on the writing of the play - in interview with Fintan O’Toole (In Dublin, 1982): Q: ‘With The Freedom of the City, which was obviously a very complex play, are you afraid that in certain circumstances an audience might take a very crude and a very blunt political message from it? A: ‘That wouldn’t worry me anyway. “Did that play of mine send out / Certain men [the English shot]?” - that sort of thing wouldn’t worry me at all. I think one of the problems with that play was that the experience of Bloody Sunday wasn’t adequately distilled in me. I wrote it out of some kind of heat and some kind of immediate passion that I would want to have quieted a bit before I did it. It was really - do you remember that time? - it was a very emotive time. It was really a shattering experience that the British army, this disciplined instrument, would go in as they did that time and shoot 13 people. To be there on that occasion and - I didn’t actually see people get shot - but, I mean, to have to throw yourself on the ground because people are firing at you is a very terrifying experience. Then the whole cover-up afterwards was shattering too. We still have some kind of belief that the law is above reproach. We still believe that the academy is above reproach in some way, don’t we?’ (O’Toole, op. cit., ep. in Irish Times, 2 Sept. 2015 [obituary article - available online].)

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Volunteers (1974): ‘Archaeology is the scientific study of people and their culture ... What you have around you is encapsulated history, a tangible précis of the story of the Irish man ... the more practical our information about our ancestors, the more accurate our deductions about his attitudes, the way he thought, what his philosophy was, in other words ... the more we learn about our ancestors ... the more we discover about ourselves ... a thrilling voyage in self-discovery ...’ (Volunteers, London: Faber 1979, pp.31-32.)

Volunteers (1974), Keeney [on Leif, the Viking skeleton]: ‘Maybe the poor hoor considered it an honour to die – maybe he volunteered [...] of course acceptance of either hypothesis would indicate he was [...] a victim of society.’ (p.28.) ‘And as I keep insisting to my friends here, the more we learn about our ancestors, children, the more we discover about ourselves – isn’t that so? So that what we are all engaged in here is really a thrilling voyage of self discovery.’ (Volunteers, Gallery 1989, p.37.)

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Living Quarters (1978) [Narrator:] ‘But reverie alone isn’t adequate for them. And their imagination, out of some deep psychic necessity, they have conceived [the ledger] - a complete and detailed record of everything that was said and done that day, as if its very existence must afford them their justification, as if in some tiny forgotten detail buried there - a smile, a hesitation, a tentative gesture - if only it could be found and recalled - in it must lie the key to an understanding of all that happened. And in their imagination, out of some deep psychic necessity, they have conceived me - the ultimate arbiter, the powerful and impartial referee, the final adjudicator, a kind of human Hansard who knows those tiny details and interprets them accurately. And yet no sooner do they conceive me with my authority and my knowledge than they begin flirting with the idea of circumventing me, of foxing me, of outwitting me. Curious, isn’t it? (Selected Plays, 1984, pp.177-78; quoted in Conor McCarthy, Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland 1969-1992, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2000, pp.60-61.)

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Living Quarters (1978) , Frank: ‘[...]what has a lifetime in the army done to me? ... have I carried over into this life the too rigid military discipline that - that the domestic life must have been bruised, damaged, by the stern attitudes that are necessary over - I suppose what I am saying is that I am not unaware of certain shortcomings in my relationships ...’ (Selected Plays, 1984, p.194; McCarthy, op. cit., p.59.) Sir: ‘But reverie alone isn’t adequate for them. And in their imagination, out of some deep psychic necessity, they have conceived this (ledger) - a complete and detailed record of everything that was said and done that day, as if its very existence must afford them their justification, as if in some tiny, forgetten detail buried here - a smile, a hesitation, a tentative gesture - if only it could be found and recalled - in it must lie the key to an understanding of all that happened. And in their imagination. out of some deep psychic necessity, they have conceived me - the ultimate arbiter, the powerful and impartial referee, the final adjudicator, a kind of human Hansard who knows those tiny little details and interprets them accurately. And yet no sooner do they conceive me with my authority and my knowledge than they begin flirting with the idea of circumventing me, of foxing me, of outwitting me. Curious, isn’t it? (Friel, 1984, p.177-78; here pp.60-61.) [Dram. pers.: Frank Butler; second wife Anna (first wife Louise); Ben, a son; Helen, a dg.; Miriam, a dg., m. Charles Donnelly; Tina, a dg.; Fr. Tom, Army chaplain and friend of Frank.]

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Aristocrats (1979), ‘Well, when we talk about the Big House in this country, we usually mean the Protestant Big House with its Anglo-Irish tradition and culture; and the distinction is properly made between that tradition and culture and what we might call the native Irish tradition and culture which is Roman Catholic.’ (Friel, Aristocrats, in Selected Plays, London: Faber 1987, p.281; quoted in Claude Fièrobe, contrib. to Princess Grace Irish Library Conference, 1998.)

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Faith Healer (1979), Frank: ‘Those were nights of exultation, of consummation ...because the questions that undermined my life then became meaningless and I knew that for those few hours I had become whole in myself, and perfect in myself. [...] But they persisted right to the end, those nagging, tormenting, maddening questions that rotted my life. When I refused to confront them, they ambushed me. And when they threatened to submerge me, I silenced them with whisky.’ (Coll. Plays, p.333.) Grace [about Frank: ] ‘he kept remaking people according to some private standard of excellence of his own, and as his standards changed, so did the person’ (CP, pp.346.) ‘I knew he had some sense that Ireland might somehow recharge him, maybe even restore him’ (CP, p.351.) Frank, ‘There was no sense of homecoming. I tried to stimulate it but nothing stirred. Only a few memories wan and neutral’ (CP, p.338.) ‘And as I moved across the yard towards them and offered myself to them, then for the first time I had a simple and genuine sense of homecoming. Then or the first time there was no atrophying terror and the maddening questions were silent. At long last I was renouncing chance.’ (CP, p.376). [Grace:] ‘It wasn’t that he was simply a liar ... it was some compulsion he had to adjust, to refashion, to re-create everything around him. Even the people who came to him ... yes, they were real enough, but not real as persons, real as fictions, extensions to himself that came into being only because of him. And if he cured a man, that man became for him a successful fiction and therefore actually real, and he’d say to me afterwards, “Quite an interesting character that, wasn’t he? I knew that would work.” But if he didn’t cure him, that man was forgotten immediately, allowed to dissolve and vanish as if he had never existed.’ (Selected Plays, 1984, p.345; quoted in Conor McCarthy, Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland 1969-1992, Four Courts Press 2000, p.68.) ‘O my God I’m one of his fictions too, but I need him to sustain me in that existence - O my God I don’t know if I can go on without his sustenance.’ (Ibid., p.353; McCarthy, op. cit. 2000, p.69.)

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Translations (1980)
Lancey: ‘[W]e will embark on a series of evictions and leveling of every abode in the following selected areas& - ... Swinefort .... Burnfoot ... Dromduff. (“Translations.”, in Modern and Contemporary Irish Drama. [2nd edn]. ed. John P. Harrington, NY: Norton [2nd edn.] 2009, p.302).
 
Maire: ‘I don’t want Greek. I don’t want Latin. I want English ... I want to be able to speak English because I’m going to America as soon as the harvest’s all saved’ (p.25).
 
Maire: ‘But we’re always sniffing about for it, aren’t we? - looking for disaster. The rents are going to go up again - the harvest’s going to be lost - the herring have gone away forever - there’s going to be evictions. Honest to God, some of you people aren’t happy unless you’re miserable and you’ll not be right content until you’re dead!’ (Sel. Plays, p.395.)
 
Owen: ‘Owen - Roland - what the hell. It’s only a name. It’s the same me, isn’t it? Well, isn’t it?’ (Sel. Plays, p.408.)
 
Hugh: ‘Remember that words are signals, counters. They are not immortal. And it can happen .. to use an image you’ll understand - it can happen that a civilisation can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of [...] fact’ (Selected Plays, p.419.)
 

Hugh: ‘We must learn those new names [...] We must learn where we live. we must learn to make them our own. We must make them our new home’; ‘it is not the literal past, the “facts” of history, that shape us, but the images of the past embodied in language.’ [...] ‘We must never cease renewing those images; because once we do, we fossilise.’ (Sel. Plays, p.445.)

 
Hugh: ‘I will provide you with the available words and the available grammar. But will that help you to interpret between privacies’ (Sel. Plays, p.446.) ‘I went on to suggest that our own culture and the classical tongues made a happier conjunction [...] English, I suggested, couldn’t really express us.’ (p.25.) ‘Confusion is not an ignoble condition’ (Sel. Plays, p.446.)
[See note on various citations, infra.]
Manus: ‘What sort of translation is that, Owen?’ Owen: ‘Did I make a mess of it?’
Manus
: ‘You weren’t saying what Lancey was saying!’ Owen: ‘“Uncertainty in meaning is incipient poetry” - who said that?’
Manus
: ‘There was nothing uncertain about what Lancey said: It’s a bloody military operation! … what’s “incorrect” about the place-names we have here?’
Owen
: ‘Nothing at all. They’re just going to be standardised’.
Manus: ‘You mean changed into English?’
Owen
: ‘Where there’s ambiguity, they’ll be Anglicised.’ (p.32.)
 
Yolland: ‘Even if I did speak Irish, I’d always be considered an outsider here, wouldn’t I? I may learn the password but the language of the tribe will always elude me, won’t it? The private core will always be ... hermetic, won’t it?’ (p.40.) Also: ‘I feel so cut off from the people here’ (Harrington, op. cit., p.285.)
 
Manus: ‘A rich language. A rich literature. You’ll find, sir, that certain cultures expend on their vocabularies and syntax acquisitive energies and ostentations entirely lacking in their material lives. I suppose you could call us a spiritual people’ (p.42; var. 51-52; also in Harrington, op. cit., p.285.)
 

Var.: A rich language. A rich literature […] full of the mythologies of fantasy and hope and self-deception – a syntax opulent with tomorrows. It is our response to mud cabins and a diet of potatoes; our only method of replying to… inevitabilities. (pp.50-51)

 
‘We must learn those new names [...] We must learn where we live. We must learn to make them our own. We must make them our new home.’ (p.66.) ‘[D]on’t expect too much. I will provide you with the available words and available grammar. But will that help you to interpret between privacies? I have no idea [...] I have no idea at all.’ (p.67.)
 
Jimmy Jack: ‘Do you know the Greek word endogamein? It means to marry within the tribe. And the word exogamein means to marry outside the tribe. And you don’t cross those borders casually – both sides get very angry. Now the problem is this, Is Athene sufficiently mortal or am I sufficiently Godlike for this marriage to be acceptable to her people and to my people?’ (p.68).
 
Hugh: ‘Urbs antiqua fuit - there was an ancient city which, ’tis said, Juno loved above all the lands. And it was the goddess’s aim and cherished hope that here should be capital of all nations - should the fates perchance allow that. yet intruth she disocvered that a race was springing from Trojan blood to overthrow some day these Tyrian towers - a people late regem belloque superbum - kings of broad realms and proud in war who would come forth for Libya’s downfall.’ (q.p.; quoted in Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, ‘British Romans and Irish Carthaginians: Anticolonial Metaphor in Heaney, Friel and McGuinness’, in PMLA, March 1996, pp.222-36 [see remarks in Commentary, supra].)
 
Manus: ‘I’m employed as a part-time, underpaid, civilian interpreter. My job is to translate the quaint, archaic tongue you people persist in speaking into the King’s good English’ (CP, pp.404.) [ENG310 Student citations.]

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Hugh [to Lt. Yolland]: ‘[Wordsworth ...] no. I’m afraid we’re not familiar with your literature, Lieutenant. We feel closer to the warm mediterranean. We tend to overlook your island.’ (p.49; quoted by Terence Brown, ‘British Ireland’, in Edna Longley, ed., Culture in Ireland, Division or Diversity? (QUB 1991) [pp.19-27pp.], p.78; also in Roy Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch, 1993, where it is dismissed as ‘grandiose self-delusion’ (p.31).
 
Hugh: ‘We must learn where we live. We must learn to make them our own. We must learn to make them our new home’ (Harrington, op. cit., p.306).

Some more quotations ...

“To remember everything is a form of madness.”

“...that it is not the literal past, the 'facts' of history, that shape us, but images of the past embodied in language.”

“Yes, it is a rich language, Lieutenant, full of the mythologies of fantasy and hope and self-deception - a syntax opulent with tomorrows. It is our response to mud cabins and a diet of potatoes; our only method of replying to... inevitabilities.”

“Even if I did speak Irish, I’d always be considered an outsider here, wouldn’t I? I may learn the password but the language of the tribe will always elude me, won’t it? The private core will always be ...hermetic, won’t it?”

“But remember that words are signals, counters. They are not immortal. And it can happen - to use an image you'll understand - it can happen that a civilisation can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of... fact.”

“No matter how long the sun may linger on his long and weary journey, at length evening comes with its sacred song.”

Goodreads > Quotes > Translations - online; accessed 11.05.2017.

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Making History (1988) - Lombard [in answer to Hugh O’Neill’s insistence that he should ‘tell the truth’:] ‘I don’t believe that a period of history – a given space of time– my life – your life – that it contains withint it one “true” interpretation just waiting to be mined. But I do believe that it may contain within it several possible narratives. The life of Hugh O’Neill can be told in many different ways. And those ways are determined by the needs and demands and the expectations of different people and different eras.’ (p.15-6.) ‘an impromptu alliance of squabbling tribesmen [...] grabbing at religion as a coagulant only because they have no other idea to inform them or give them cohesion’ (p.38.) [Cont.]

Cont. (Making History): O’Neill [wants to be included in his biography as] ‘the schemer, the leader, the liar, the statesman, the lecher, the patriot, the drunk, the soured, bitter emigré’ (p.63.) ‘you are going to embalm me in - in - in a florid lie’ (p.63.) [After Kinsale:] ‘my brother Gaels couldn’t wait to strip me of every blade of grass I ever owned’ (p.66.) Lombard: ‘I’m not talking about falsifying, about lying, for heaven’s sake. I’m simply talking about making a pattern [...] offering a cohesion to that random catalogue of deliberate acheivement and sheer accident that constitute your life. And that cohesion will be a narrative that people will read and be satisfied by’ (pp.66-67.) Lombard [seeing Ireland as] ‘reduced as it has never been reduced before [...] this isn’t the time for critical assessment of your ploys [...] Now is the time for a hero.’ (p.67).

Cont. (Making History) [Peter Lombard to Hugh O’Neill]: ‘In the big canvas of national events - in your exchanges with popes and kings and queens - is that where Mabel herself thought her value and her importance resided? Is that how she saw herself? But she had her own value, her own importance. And at some future time and in a mode we can't imagine now I have no doubt that story will be told fully and sympathetically. It will be a domestic story, Hugh; a love story; and a very beautiful love story it will be. ’ (p.69; quoted in Helen Lojek, ‘Brian Friel’s Plays and George Steiner’s Linguistics: Translating the Irish’, in Contemporary Literature, Spring 1994, pp.83-99; p.95.)

Cont. (Making History) [Peter Lombard]: ‘I have tried to be objective and faithful - after my artistic fashion - to the empirical method. But when there was tension between historical “fact” and the imperative of the fiction, I’m glad to say I kept faith with the narrative ... history and fiction are related and comparable forms of discourse and ... an historical text is a kind of literary artifact.’ (?Idem; quoted in Lojek, op. cit., p.95.)

Cont. (Making History) [Hugh O’Neill]: ‘And then when I could endure that humiliation no longer, I ran away! If these were “my people” then to hell with my people! The Flight of the Earls - you make it sound like a lap of honour. We ran away just as we ran away at Kinsale. We were going to look after our own skins! That’s why we “took boat” from Rathmullan! That's why the great O’Neill is here - at rest - here - in Rome. Because we ran away’. (Making History, p.66; quoted in Rachel Boyd, UG Diss., UUC 2012.)

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Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), Stage directions: ‘[...] there is a sense of order being consciously subverted, of the women consciously and crudely caricaturing themselves, indeed of near-hysteria being induced’ (Lughnasa, p.22.)

(Kate:) ‘And they’re savages! I know those people from the back hills! I’ve taught them! Savages - that’s what they are! And what pagan practices they have are no concern of ours - none whatever. It’s a sorry day to hear talk like that in a Christian home, a Catholic home! All I can say is that I’m shocked and disappointed to hear you repeating rubbish like that, Rose.’ [When the dancing begins Kate dances:] ‘totally concentrated, totally private; a movement that is simultaneously controlled and frantic; a weave of complex steps that takes her quickly round the kitchen, past her sisters, out to the garden, round the summer seat, back to the kitchen; a pattern of action that is out of character and at the same time ominous of some deep and true emotion. [The others] make no sound. [Lughnasa, 1990, p.62].

‘Dancing as if language no longer existed because words were no longer necessary.’ (p.71.)

‘... the heart seemd to go out of the house [...] and when my time came to go away, in the selfish way of young men, I was happy to escape.’ (p.70-71).

[The narrator is visited by a memory] ‘which owes nothing to fact’: ‘When I remember it, I think of it as dancing. Dancing with eyes half-closed because to open them would break the spell. Dancing as if language had surrendered to movement - as if this ritual, this wordless ceremony, was now the way to speak, to whisper private and sacred things, to be in touch with some otherness. Dancing as if the very heart of life and all its hopes might be found in those assuaging notes and those hushed rhythms and in those silent and hypnotic movements.’ (Complete Plays, Vol. 2, p.108.)

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Wonderful Tennessee (1993): ‘remembering becomes a synonym for healing’; [on Lough Derg:] ‘But years ago people went there to be cured? ‘To remember again - to be reminded.’ ‘To remember what? ...’; ‘to be in touch again - to attest.’ (Tennessee, 31.) ‘In touch with what?’ ‘Whatever it is we desire but can’t express. What is beyond Language. The inexpressible / The ineffable.’ (Tennessee, p.52).

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The Theatre of Hope and Despair” (lecture of 1967; printed 1968): ‘[Modern dramatist’s only real concern is with] individuals, isolated, separated, sick and disillusioned with their inheritance, existing in the void created by their rejection, waiting without hope for a new social structure that will give a meaning to their lives [... When the modern dramatist] depicts man as lost, groping, confused, anxious, disillusioned, he is expressing the secreat and half-formed thoughts of all our hearts.’ (Rep. in Christopher Murray, Brian Friel, pp.21-23; cited in Richard Pine, ‘Friel’s Irish Russia’, in The Cambridge Companion to Brian Friel, ed. Anthony Roche, CUP 2006, p.108 [Pine’s interpolations].)

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Self-Portrait” (1972): ‘[A]n Irish Catholic teacher with a nationalist background, living in a schizophrenic community’; explores the ‘mixed holding I had inherited’ (p.41.) illustrates ‘how difficult it is for an Irish writer to find his faith’; (p.45.) ‘our Irishness’; ‘the generation of Irish writers immediately before mine took their genetic purity for granted.’ [Cont.]

Cont.: ‘For us today the situation is more complex. We are more concerned with defining our Irishness than with pursuing it. We want to know what the word “native” means, what the word “foreign” means. We want to konw whether the words have any meaning at all.’ (p.45). [The foregoing quoted in Scott Boltwood, draft study 2000.]

Further (“Self-Portrait”, 1972), ‘I am married, have five children, live in the country, smoke too much, fish a bit, read a lot, worry a lot, get involved in sporadic causes and invariably regret the involvement, and hope that between now and my death I will have acquired a religion, a philosophy, a sense of life that will make the end less frightening than it appears to me at the moment.’ (Quoted in Stella McCuskar, ‘Emigration, Love & Relationships: Themes in the Work of Brian Friel’, UUC UG Diss., 2002.)

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Sundry Comments

Fintan O’Toole, ‘The Man from God Knows Where’ [interview with Brian Friel], In Dublin (28 Oct. 1982)

The first thing I wanted to ask you was about the sense of place in your work and the fact that so many of your characters seem to lack a sense of place, to be dislocated. Does that have any parallel in your own life?
That’s a real academic’s question, isn’t it? I’ll try to answer it. Seamus Deane has written a number of essays on me, and that’s one of his persistent points, that I’m some sort of displaced person, you know? If there are parallels in my own life I don’t know. There is certainly a sense of rootlessness and impermanence. It may well be the inheritance of being a member of the Northern minority. That could be one of the reasons, where you are certainly at home but in some sense exile is imposed on you. That may be a reason. I mean, I’m groping at answers to this. In some kind of a way I think Field Day has grown out of that sense of impermanence, of people who feel themselves native to a province, or certainly to an island, but in some way feel that a disinheritance is offered to them.

Is Field Day then an attempt to reclaim that inheritance?
Yes, but the difficulty is what to reclaim. You can’t deposit fealty to a situation, like the Northern situation, that you don’t believe in. Then you look south of the Border and that enterprise is in so many ways distasteful. And yet both places are your home, so you are an exile in your home in some kind of sense. It may be an inheritance from a political situation. I think it may very well be, and I think the people that are gathered around Field Day - there are six of them ... I don’t want to speak for the other five, but I think this could be a common sense to all of them. Someone has suggested, maybe it was [Tom] Paulin, that it’s an attempt to create a fifth province to which artistic and cultural loyalty can be offered.

There’s also a close sense of family in your plays and of the kind of bonds that the family imposes on the individual.
Maybe it’s part of the same thing again, that there’s some kind of instinctive sense of home being central to the life and yet at the same time home being a place of great stress and great alienation. I’m not really very good at this kind of question, Fintan, because the question’s a kind of abstract based on a body of work, isn’t it, and I sort of look from enterprise to enterprise, from job to job, you know what I mean? So it’s really a kind of an academic’s question, isn’t it?

So do you never look back on your work and attempt to pick things out?
No, not at all. Only when you find, for example, that categories are being imposed on you, for example after three plays in particular - after Faith Healer, which was kind of an austere enterprise, Translations, which was offered pieties that I didn’t intend for it, and then [his version of Chekhov’s] Three Sisters - in some way I felt I’m being corralled into something here. By other people. And this was one of the reasons I wanted to attempt a farce.

[...]

Were you aware of almost being canonised after Translations?
Ach, not at all. Ah, no, that’s very strong. But it was treated much too respectfully. You know, when you get notices, especially from outside the island, saying, “If you want to know what happened in Cuba, if you want to know what happened in Chile, if you want to know what happened in Vietnam, read Translations,” that’s nonsense. And I just can’t accept that sort of pious rubbish.

I was wondering whether your concern with language, indeed with your profession as a playwright, stemmed from a re-examination of that profession. You said in 1972 that you were thinking of going back to writing short stories instead of plays.
Ah, I don’t know. The whole language one is a very tricky one. The whole issue of language is a very problematic one for us all on this island. I had grandparents who were native Irish speakers and also two of the four grandparents were illiterate. It’s very close, you know. I actually remember two of them. And to be so close to illiteracy and to a different language is a curious experience. And in some way I don’t think we’ve resolved it. We haven’t resolved it on this island for ourselves. We flirt with the English language, but we haven’t absorbed it and we haven’t regurgitated it in some kind of way. It’s accepted outside the island, you see, as “our great facility with the English language” - [Kenneth] Tynan said we used it like drunken sailors, you know that kind of image. That’s all old rubbish. A language is much more profound than that. It’s not something we produce for the entertainment of outsiders. And that’s how Irish theatre is viewed, indeed, isn’t it?

It is very often. And isn’t it the dilemma of the modern Irish playwright that to actually make a decent living out of writing plays you have to find an audience in Britain and the United States, while the enterprise you’re involved in is more about trying to write primarily for an Irish audience?
Are you confusing an economic dilemma with an artistic dilemma? Is that what you’re saying?

Well, doesn’t the fact of having to make a living force certain conditions on you?
It doesn’t, no. Not in the slightest. Because in the case of Translations I was really sure that this was the first enterprise that Field Day was going to do, and I was sure we were in deep trouble with that play. We thought, Field Day will never even get a lift-off because of this play, because here is a play set in 1833, set in a hedge school. You have to explain the terminology to people outside the island, indeed to people inside the island too, so I thought we were on a real financial loss here. But that is part of the enterprise, and this is one of the reasons why I attempted the translation of Chekhov. It’s back to the political problem: it’s our proximity to England; it’s how we have been pigmented in our theatre with the English experience, with the English language, the use of the English language, the understanding of words; the whole cultural burden that every word in the English language carries is slightly different to our burden. Joyce talks in the Portrait of his resentment of the [English] Jesuit priest because his language, “so familiar and so foreign, will always be for me an acquired speech”, and so on.

[...]
See full-text version - as attached.
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Identity (1): ‘perhaps I’m twins.’ (Quoted in Richard Pine, Brian Friel and Ireland’s Irish Drama, 1990), p.15; also in Pine, The Disappointed Bridge: Ireland and the Post-Colonial World, Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2014, p.503ff. [chapter title; explains the origin of the phrase in a letter from Friel to the author.)

‘I am not aware of having any theatrical pedigree.’ (Quoted in George O’Brien, Brian Friel, 1989, p.30.) See also his remark that the play-wright’s is a ‘bogus profession’ (q. source).

Identity (2): ‘[...] for people like ourselves, living close to such a fluid situation, definitions of identity have to be developed and analysed much more frequently. We’ve go to keep questioning until we find some kind of portmanteau term or until we find some kind of generosity that can embrace the whole island. Of course, there is no better, no more fluid, place to develop and to analyse identity than the theatre, where actors transform themselves every night.’ (Interview, Sunday Independent , 5 oct. 1980; quoted in Christopher Morash, History of Irish Theatre 1601-2005, Cambridge UP [2005], p.241.

Identity (3): [a culture] ‘can provide an identity to those who share it and constraint that identity’s freedom and autonomy’ (quoted in George O’Brien, Brian Friel, Gill & Macmillan, 1979, p.19.) Also: ‘I don’t know what a national culture is, really’ (‘Interview by Laurence Finnegan, in Essays [&c.,. ed. Christopher Murray, 2000], p.131; quoted in Scott Boltwood, draft study, 2000.)

Identity (4): ‘[...] However, I think that for the first time this is stopping, that there is some kind of confidence, some kind of coming together of Irish dramatists who are not concerned with this, who have no interest in the English stage. We are talking to ourselves as we must, and if we are overheard in America, or England, so much [the] better.’ (In Paddy Kilroy, ‘Talking to Ourselves [interview with Brian Friel], in Magill, Dec. 1980, p.60.)

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Peasant mind: ‘... to understand anything about the history or present health of Irish drama, one must first acknowledge the peasant mind.’ (Times Literary Supplement, 17 March 1972, p.305.) Note also: ‘I think I am a sort of peasant at heart. I’m certainly not “citified” and I never will be. There are certain atmospheres which I find totally alien to me and I’m much more at ease in a rural setting.’ (Quoted in Ulf Dantanus, Brian Friel: A Study, p.17).

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The English language: ‘We flirt with the English language, but we haven’t absorbed it [...] It’s accepted outside the island, you see, as “our great facility with the English language” [...] that’s all oul’ rubbish. A language is much more profound than that. It’s not something we produce for the entertainment of outsiders. And that’s how Irish theatre is viewed, isn’t it?’; ‘I think that is how the political problem of this island is going to be solved. [...] It’s going to be solved by the recognition of what language means for us on this island [...] Because we are in fact talking about accommodation or marrying of two cultures here, which are ostenisbly speaking the same language but which in fact aren’t.’ (Interview with Fintan O’Toole, ‘The Man from God Knows Where, In Dublin, No. 165, Oct. 1982, pp.20-23; p.21, 23; cited in Ginete Verstraete, ‘Brian Friel’s Drama and the Limits of Language’, in Joris Duytschaever and Geert Lernout, eds., History and Violence in Anglo-Irish Literature [Conference of 9 April 1986; Costerus Ser. Vol. 71] (Amsterdam: Rodopi 1988), pp.85-96, pp.87, 95.)

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English words: Friel has said in interview that he has taken English words and tried to ‘make them distinctive and unique to use.’ (Magill, 1980, p.59.) Vide Francis Hardy in Friel’s Faith Healer, ‘I’d recite the names to myself just for the mesmerism, the sedation of the incantation.’ (See Loreto Todd, The Language of Irish Literature, 1989.)

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Modern Ireland: ‘Ireland is becoming a shabby imitation of a third-rate American state ... We are rapidly losing our identity as a people and because of this, that special quality an Irish writers should have will be lost. A writer is the voice of his people and if the people are no longer individuals I cannot see that the writer will have much currency.’ (Interview, Hickey & Smith, A Paler Shade of Green, 1972, p.224; quoted in Conor McCarthy, Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland 1969-1992, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2000, p.46.) Friel declares that he knows ‘no reason why Ireland should not be ruled by its poets and dramatists. [...] if Yeats and Lady Gregory were alive today, they would be unimportant people.’ (Ibid., pp.224-25; McCarthy, op. cit., idem). Further: ‘I have no objectivity in this situation [the Troubles]; I am too involved emotionally to view it with calm.’ (Ibid., p.222; McCarthy, op. cit., p.51.)

Irish flux: ‘[I] would like to write a play that would capture the peculiar spiritual, and indeed material flux that this country is in at the moment. This has got to be done, for me anyway, at a local, parochial level, and hopefully this will have meaning for people in other countries.’ (Cited in D. E. S. Maxwell, Brian Friel, D. E. S. Maxwell, Friel, Jersey: Assoc. UP 1973, p.84 [var. p.109].)

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Bloody Sunday: ‘It was really a shattering experience that the British army, this disciplined instrument, would go in as they did that time and shoot thirteen people. To be there on that occasion and – I didn’t actually see people get – shot – but I mean, to have to throw yourself on the ground because people are firing at you is a very terrifying experience. The whole cover – up afterwards was shattering too. We still have some kind of belief that the law is above reproach.’ (Interview; quoted in F.C. McGrath, Brian Friel’s (Post) Colonial Drama: Language, Illusion and Politics, Syracuse UP 1999, p.99.) Also [after Bloody Sunday:] ‘I have no objectivity in ths situation; I am too involved emotionally to view it with calm.’ (aquoted in Richard Pine, Brian Friel and Ireland’s Drama,London: Routledge 1990), p.105; also in Dantanus, Brian Friel: The Growth of an Irish Dramatist, NJ: Humanities 1986; London: Faber , p.36).

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Translations Journal”: ‘Translations is set in a hedge school in Ballybeg, Co. Donegal, in the year 1833. The British army is engaged in mapping the whole of Ireland, a process which involves the renaming of every place in the country. It is a time of great upheaval in Ballybeg, their hedge-school is to be replaced by one of the new national schools, there is a recurring potato blight, they have acquired a new language (English), and because their townlan is to be renamed, everything that was familiar to them is becoming strange.’ (Cited in Terence Brown, ‘Have we a Context: Transition, Self and Society in Theatre of Brian Friel’, in Alan Peacock, The Achievement of Brian Friel (1993), p.195; Friel, ‘the play has to do with language and only language; if it becomes overwhelmed by that political element, it is lost’ (cited in Dantanus, 1988, pp.199-200). Also Making History, Friel’s explanatory note in Derry premier programme, ‘Making History is a dramatic fiction that uses some actual and some imagined events in the life of Hugh O’Neill to make a story. I have tried to be objective and faithful – after my artistic fashion –to the empirical method. But where there was tension between the historical “fact” and the imperative of the fiction, I’m glad to say I kept faith with the narrative. For exampe, even though Mabel, Hugh’s wife, died in 1591, it suited my story to keep her alive for another ten years. Part of me regrets taking these occasional liberties. But then I remind myself that history and fiction are related and comparable forms of discorse and that an historical text is a kind of literary artefact. and then I am greateful that these regrets were never inhibiting. (Cited in Sean Connolly, ‘Translating History, Brian Friel and the Irish Past’, in Alan Peacock, ed., The Achievement of Brian Friel, 1993, pp.158-59).

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Staging history (on Making History): ‘... writing a historical play [...] imposes particular responsibilities. The apparent advantages are the established historical facts or at least the received historical ideas in which the work is rooted and which gives it its apparent familiarity and accessibility. The concomitant responsibility is to acknowledge those facts or ideas but not to defer to them. Drama is first a fiction, with the authority of fiction.’ (‘Translations, and A Paper Landscape [... &c]’, Crane Bag, Vol. VII, No. 2 (1983), p.123; cited in Gerald Fitzgibbon, Historical Obsession in Recent Irish Drama’, in Geert Lernout, ed., The Crows Behind the Plough: History and Violence in Anglo-Irish Poetry and Drama [Costerus Ser. Vol. 79] (Amsterdam: Rodopi 1991), pp.41-59; p.51.


Identity (1): ‘perhaps I’m twins.’ (Quoted in Richard Pine, Brian Friel and Ireland’s Irish Drama, 1990), p.15; also in Pine, The Disappointed Bridge: Ireland and the Post-Colonial World, Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2014, p.503ff. [chapter title; explains the origin of the phrase in a letter from Friel to the author.)

Identity (2): ‘I am not aware of having any theatrical pedigree.’ (Quoted in George O’Brien, Brian Friel, 1989, p.30.) See also his remark that the play-wright’s is a ‘bogus profession’ (q. source).

Identity (3): ‘[...] for people like ourselves, living close to such a fluid situation, definitions of identity have to be developed and analysed much more frequently. We’ve go to keep questioning until we find some kind of portmanteau term or until we find some kind of generosity that can embrace the whole island. Of course, there is no better, no more fluid, place to develop and to analyse identity than the theatre, where actors transform themselves every night.’ (Interview, Sunday Independent , 5 oct. 1980; quoted in Christopher Morash, History of Irish Theatre 1601-2005, Cambridge UP [2005], p.241.

Identity (4): [a culture] ‘can provide an identity to those who share it and constraint that identity’s freedom and autonomy’ (quoted in George O’Brien, Brian Friel, Gill & Macmillan, 1979, p.19.) Also: ‘I don’t know what a national culture is, really’ (‘Interview by Laurence Finnegan, in Essays [&c.,. ed. Christopher Murray, 2000], p.131; quoted in Scott Boltwood, draft study, 2000.)

Identity (5): ‘[...] However, I think that for the first time this is stopping, that there is some kind of confidence, some kind of coming together of Irish dramatists who are not concerned with this, who have no interest in the English stage. We are talking to ourselves as we must, and if we are overheard in America, or England, so much [the] better.’ (In Paddy Kilroy, ‘Talking to Ourselves [interview with Brian Friel], in Magill, Dec. 1980, p.60.)

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Peasant mind: ‘... to understand anything about the history or present health of Irish drama, one must first acknowledge the peasant mind.’ (Times Literary Supplement, 17 March 1972, p.305.) Note also: ‘I think I am a sort of peasant at heart. I’m certainly not “citified” and I never will be. There are certain atmospheres which I find totally alien to me and I’m much more at ease in a rural setting.’ (Quoted in Ulf Dantanus, Brian Friel: A Study, p.17).

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The English language: ‘We flirt with the English language, but we haven’t absorbed it [...] It’s accepted outside the island, you see, as “our great facility with the English language” [...] that’s all oul’ rubbish. A language is much more profound than that. It’s not something we produce for the entertainment of outsiders. And that’s how Irish theatre is viewed, isn’t it?’; ‘I think that is how the political problem of this island is going to be solved. [...] It’s going to be solved by the recognition of what language means for us on this island [...] Because we are in fact talking about accommodation or marrying of two cultures here, which are ostenisbly speaking the same language but which in fact aren’t.’ (Interview with Fintan O’Toole, ‘The Man from God Knows Where, In Dublin, No. 165, Oct. 1982, pp.20-23; p.21, 23; cited in Ginete Verstraete, ‘Brian Friel’s Drama and the Limits of Language’, in Joris Duytschaever and Geert Lernout, eds., History and Violence in Anglo-Irish Literature [Conference of 9 April 1986; Costerus Ser. Vol. 71] (Amsterdam: Rodopi 1988), pp.85-96, pp.87, 95.)

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Irish national theatre: ‘No reason for it at all, for its existence. [...] I’m merely saying that I don’t understand what a national theatre is any more. I don’t understand the need for a national theatre because it would imply that there is some kind of national voice.’ (‘Interview by Laurence Finnegan, in Essays, p.131.)

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St Columb’s: Brian Friel ‘never tried formally to recall St Columb’s’, but ‘remember[s] [the teachers] with great respect, a respect they earned by their hard work and their fair-mindedness and their dedication to their job - the acknowledged virtues of that era. further, ‘[W]hen I think of St Columb’s, I think of those teachers, and my fading memory of school-life there finds clarity and definition in their worthy lives.(The Irish Times, Education sect. (11 May 1999 [online])

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Field Day Co.: ‘We are a Northern accented group with a strong political element and that would concern itself with some sense of disaffection most of us would feel at the state of the two nations, which is strongly reflected in the work we are doing this year. I would say that all six of us ould probably not be at home in the twenty-six counties.’ (The Irish Times interview, 8 Sept. 1984; q.source and query date.) Note the full copy of an Irish Times article by Patrick Quilligan, dated 18 Sept. 1984, given on the Ciaran Hinds website and supplied there in PDF online [accessed 27.02.2011]. The relevant section of text reads as follows:

Field Day’s New Double Bill (in The Irish Times, 18 Feb. 1984)

The Field Day Theatre Company tomorrow in Derry, opens two new one-act plays, by TOM PAULIN and DEREK MAHON, poets who are writing for the stage for the first time. PATRICK QUILLIGAN went North to talk to two of the company’s directors BRIAN FRIEL and STEPHEN REA about Field Day and its latest productions, which will subsequently tour Ireland.

Brian Friel’s Translations was Field Day’s first production, and it brought together the playwright, now resident in Co. Donegal, with actor Stephen Rea and coincided, according to Friel, “with the vague and amorphous hopes and thoughts we had about the whole enterprise.” The two founder directors gathered four others from both sides of the community, Seamus Deane, Seamus Heaney, David Hammond and Tom Paulin, who were committed to a re-examination of previously held beliefs and not constrained by history in their present or future thinking.
 “We’re a Northern accented group,” says Friel, “with a strong political element (small p) and that would concern itself with some sense of disaffection most of us would feel at the state of two nations, which is strongly reflected in the work we are doing this year. I would say that all six of us are not at home in Northern Ireland and indeed all six would probably be at home in the 26 counties.
 “We appropriated (from Richard Kearney) the phrase “Fifth Province”, which may well be a province of the mind, through which we hope to devise another way of looking at Ireland, or another possible Ireland, and this really is the pursuit of the company.”
 Friel believes that if this “new province” or new possibility is to mean anything then it must first be “articulated, spoken, written, painted, sung” and then perhaps the definition can be forged by legislators and politicians.
 “Already in crude political terms the island is at the point of some kind of cataclysm, the Northern State certainly is and so is also is the Southern State, where new definitions currently silenced and confused, are both necessary and possible. Field Day is a forum where a more generous and noble notion of Irishness than the narrow inherited one can be discussed.”
[...]
Much has been made of the political element in Field Day and the reputation, “unfounded” says Stephen Rea, of being solely the voice of the minority community.
 “Politics is an important ingredient but not the only one. We tour the whole country in an attempt to reach a fresh identity that will contain everyone and in that we are political. But we are deeply interested in theatre as an art form, in setting new and different theatrical standards, which I’m not saying we always attain. But we strive towards that and for this production [The Riot Act] we have gathered together a group of totally committed actors with nothing to distract them.”
 But theatre’s relevance to the harsh realities of people’s lives is never far from Rea’s mind. He cites dismissal of the legitimacy of the miners’ case in Britain by right wing opinion and the confrontational international stance by the US in Central America as examples of the plight of those who stand up and protest. Similar to the plight of the character of Antigone in the play which he directs - she is unwilling to remain silent in the face of injustice. Rea is reluctant to spell out the parallels in recent Irish hisotry and prejudice the artistic merits of the play.
 Suffice it to say that “there is a sense of Antigone, that if you responde to a fixed position by a Government, in this case Creon, your response is in some way evil or subversive: she is unable to do anything else but to react in this way because the gauntlet has been thrown down. This play applies not only to Ireland but has a universal message. Apasrt from the obvious political relevance for us, it’s a great play translated by an Irish poet and we wnat it to be primarily theatrical.”
 On the administrative side continuity of personnel is a problem for Field Day because no sooner have they brought together the complex parts necessary for a touring production of this scale than the whole thing is disbanded for another years. Collapse rather than consolidation and continuity have been the rule to date. However, Friel hopes that next year they will tour two or perhaps three plays. Another project he plans in the future is a major anthology of Irish letters for the past 400 years, which would require the interest and service of a large publishing house such as the American company Norton.
 Meanwhile, the company’s sole full-time employee, administrator Julie Barber, aims to organise private sponsorship [...] All this ground work, says P.R.O. Jude Bowles, “has meant that Derry is now on the touring route for other companies.”
 Another area of interest for the company lies in the publishing of pamphlets on various topics including Seamus Deane on “Heroic Styles”, Richard Kearney on “Myth and Motherland”, and Seamus Heaney’s response to being classified as a “British” writer. In the most recent set Declan Kiberd in “Anglo-Irish Attitudes” offers a hard-hitting economic/socialist critique of the playwrights Wilde, Shaw, Behan and O’Casey aimed at British liberal opinion well disposed to Ireland. This favourable disposition, says Kiberd, is hampered by a romantic view of Ireland nurtured in the past by a soft “cultural” reading of the dramatists. If that approach is extended to politics today, he concludes, it results in a refusal to face unpalatable facts and abuses of power by the British administration in Northern Ireland. [End.]


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James Joyce: Friel equates sanctity with [artistic] integrity and deems James Joyce ‘a saint’ because he turned ‘his back on Ireland and on his family.’ (Interview, Guardian, 18 Oct. 1984).

Music” (programme for the Friel Festival, April-Aug. 1999): ‘[I]n Philadelphia, Here I Come! I used a piece of céilí music - or what one of the characters calls a “piece of aul thumpety-thump”. And a similar piece - only more anguished and manic - in Dancing at Lughnasa. And in both plays the purpose was to explode theatrically the stifled rituals and discretion of family life. And since words didn’t seem to be up to the job it was necessary to supply the characters with a new language. Because at that specific point in both plays when the céilí music is used, words offer neither an adequate means of expression nor a valve for emotional release. Because at that specific point emotion has staggered into inarticulacy beyond the boundaries of language. And that is what music can provide in the theatre: another way of talking, a language without words. And because it is wordless it can hit straight and unmediated into the vein of deep emotion.’ (pp.14-15; rep. in Christopher Murray, Brian Friel: Essays, Diaries, Interviews: 1964-1999, London: Faber & Faber 1999, p.177; citd in “Dancing at Lugnasa and the unfinished revolution”, in The Cambridge Companion to Brian Friel, ed. Anthony Roche, CUP 2006, p.88.)

Russian writers [why is he attracted to them?]: ‘Maybe because the characters in the plays behave as if their old certainties were as sustaining as ever - even though they know in their hearts that their society is in melt-down and the future has neither a welcome nor even an accommodation for them. Maybe a bit like people in my own generation in Ireland today. Or maybe I find those Russians sympathetic because they have no expectations whatever from love [err. life?] but still invest everything in it. Or maybe they attract me because the seem to expect that their problems will disappear if they talk about them - endlessly. (Friel, “Seven Notes for a Festival Programme”, in Christopher Murray, ed., Brian Friel: Essays, Diaries, Interviews: 1664-1999, London: Faber & Faber 1999, p.17; quoted in Richard Pine, ‘Friel’s Irish Russians’, in The Cambridge Companion to Brian Friel, ed. Anthony Roche, Cambridge UP 2006, p.104.) [For further remarks on the Russian writers see extracts from Pine, op. cit., under Quotations - as infra.]

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