Peter Hoggart, Matt Christian Reed, Joe Jameson, Charlie Morton, Tala Gouveia, Oliver Hoare, Nora Wardell, Tom Weston-Jones, Heather Johnson, Alasdair Buchan
This solid, enjoyable staging of Brian Friel’s Translations is the work of graduating students from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Directed by Roger Haines this production gives the students a chance to showcase the skills they have developed during their studies.
The play concerns the inhabitants of a small village in Ireland during the early nineteenth century. The British Army are in the process of creating the first Ordnance Survey map of the territory but the lack of a common language leads to misunderstandings on both sides.
Friel’s classic play, which is mostly in English to allow the audience to understand what is going on, has a beautiful lyricism, and although some of this has been lost in this production there are some delightful moments when characters from both sides of the linguistic divide interact with one another.
There are many good performances here: the young cast more than cope with the demands of the play. Nora Wardell is captivating as Maire, an ambitious student who falls for the British Army’s Ortographer, Lieutenant Yolland, here played by Joe Jameson. The moment at which they share their love for eachother in the second act is a highlight of the production, managing to be both amusing and touching in the same instance. Maire’s other suitor, Manus and his brother Owen, are here played by Charlie Morton and Peter Hoggart who also turn in top performances.
Their alcoholic schoolmaster father, Hugh, is well-played by Alasdair Buchan, who, along with Oliver Hoare as Jimmy Jack, displays a good sense of comic timing, especially when the duo quote Greek and Latin to each other. Matt Christian Reed is commanding as Captain Lancey and Tala Gouveia is charming as Sarah, while Tom Weston-Jones and Heather Johnson successfully capture the raucous side of rural Irish life as Doalty and Bridget.
The set, designed by Anna Michaels, is remarkably detailed in its evocation of a school in a quiet Irish village to life. Not one detail has been overlooked, and even the pillars that dominate the Tobacco Factory’s performance space have been turned into a feature rather than an obstruction. That said, there are some slightly cringe-worthy special effects in the latter stages as play, when the roof begins to fall onto the stage. At first it appeared unintentional and then it became obvious that it was a device meant to represent how the characters’ world was about to fall apart.
Aside from this small misjudgement this is still a very enjoyable production which leaves the audience satisfied in many ways. Friel’s play remains rich and potent and while this production didn’t tap into the issues explored as much as it might, it is still refreshing to see such strong talent emerging; there were a number of people among the cast who will likely have a very bright future ahead of them indeed.