This show finished on Saturday 04 March 2023, and this page is being kept for archival purposes only.


Even if I did speak Irish, I’d always be considered an outsider here, wouldn’t I?


Wednesday 01 March - Saturday 04 March 2023


Bedlam Theatre


£6/£7/£9 + fees, £1 booking fee on the door


Brian Friel


“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?”

In 1833 in County Donegal the lives of an Irish-speaking community residing in the townland of Baile Beag are shattered by the arrival of a detachment of the Royal Engineers who are conducting an Ordnance Survey of Ireland. Their local Gaelic place names that are so steeped in history, memory and identity are to be recorded and rendered into English for the purposes of cartography. Brian Friel’s Translations returns to Bedlam, introducing its audience to a small group of students at a struggling hedge school who demonstrate the timeless relationships between language and authority, between language and belonging, between language and love.

“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?”

I 1833 I gContae Dhún na nGall, tá saol an phobail Ghaelaigha bhfuil cónaí orthu i mbaile Bhaile Beag iompú bun os cionn nuair a tháinig scoite de na hInnealtóirí Ríoga atá i mbun Suirbhéireacht Ordanáis na hÉireann. A gcuid logainmneacha Gaeilge chomh lán le stair, cuimhne agus féiniúlachta thaifeadadh agus a aistriú go Béarla chun críocha cartagrafaíochtaTá Brian Friel’s Translations ar ais ag Bedlam, ag cur a lucht éisteachta in aithne do ghrúpa beag daltaí i scoil sceach chúng a thaispeánann an caidreamh gan teorainn idir teanga agus údarás, idir teanga agus muintearas, idir teanga agus grá.

Cast and Crew


Actor (Bridget) Olivia Martin

Actor (Captain Lancey) Ted Ackery

Actor (Doalty) Ruby Loftus

Actor (Hugh) Zac Askham

Actor (Jimmy Jack) Emer Williams

Actor (Lieutenant Yolland) Amiran Antadze

Actor (Maire) Josie Embleton

Actor (Manus) Conor Quinn

Actor (Owen) Chris Kane

Actor (Sarah) Erin O’Callaghan

Assistant Lighting Designer Nat Lamont

Assistant Lighting Designer Lewis Eggeling

Assistant Set Manager Carys Hrebenar

Assistant Set Manager L Forsyth

Co-Stage Manager / Set Assistant Atalanta Lewis

Costume Assistant Carmen Harkness

Costume Assistant Isabella Boyde

Costume Manager Nhi Tran

Director Aisling Matthews

Director Catriona Maclachlan

Lighting Assistant / Set Assistant Em Leites McPherson

Lighting Designer Freya Game

Producer Nikita Matthews

Producer Phillippa Devos

Rain Consultant George Manchester

Set Assistant Luca Stier

Set Manager Lois Zonnenberg

Sound Designer Martha Barrow

Stage Manager Sarah Moreman

Tech Manager Mallory Smith

Welfare Jane St George

Review for Translations -

Saturday 04 March - By Thom Dibdin for All Edinburgh Theatre


Edinburgh University Theatre Company bring a welcome clarity to Translations, at the Bedlam to Saturday, in a production which gets inside the many shades of meaning to Brian Friel’s script.

There is nothing particularly fancy or revelatory to directors Aisling Matthews and Catriona Maclachlan’ production. Just thoughtful, commanding performances; a set that allows the play to fall out naturally; and a pace that reflects rural Ireland in 1833.

Friel’s script concerns a so called hedge school in the Irish speaking townland of Baile Beag, County Donegal, where the schoolmaster Hugh teaches all who can pay (whether in milk, cash, corn or potatoes), to write and count – as well as, through the study of the Greek and Latin classics, the etymology of their own language.

Indeed, an understanding and familiarity with Greek and Roman Myth comes before a familiarity with the seven times table. Unlike the arriving English Royal Engineers, who are on a mission to map the whole of Ireland for the Ordnance Survey and have nothing but their English to speak in.


Translations is a play which has resonances of colonialism, about how the naming of places erases native heritage and of the subjugation of a people through cultural assimilation. Not forgetting the use of mapping as a military tool and to impose new boundaries in order to extract maximum rents.

Heavy stuff, but Matthews and Maclachlan ensure that all these, and more, are worn lightly by creating a production that focusses on the personal dramas and broad comedy of the script itself.

There is the bristling competition between Zac Askham’s dominating Hugh and Conor Quinn’s cleverly portrayed lame son, Manus, who keeps the school running despite his father’s drinking and who refuses to go against him for a position in the new state school.

There is the broad comedy of the school room with the attendees to the school itself, Emer Williams as old man Jimmy Jack, still at school well into his dotage, Ruby Loftus as the bad boy of the class, Doalty, happy to play the fool, and Olivia Martin as his sometime foil, Bridget.

crucial action

There is a drama of the arrival of Manus’s older brother, Owen, on the payroll of the English army to provide translations of the local names for their map. And more again as Owen introduces his friend Lieutenant (George) Yolland, to pupil Maire, who is Manus’s intended, but who is losing interest as he prevaricates and defers to his father.

It is around this quartet that much of the crucial action takes place. Chris Kane creates a hugely complex character as the conflicted Owen, with Amiran Antadze a wonderfully dewy-eyed Yolland and Josie Embleton a strong and commanding Maire. The latter pair’s burgeoning romance really catches the heart.

Erin O’Callaghan as pupil Sarah, believed to be mute, but whom Manus is helping find the confidence to say her own name, and Ted Ackery as Captain Lancey of the Engineers both put in performances of great realism, around which the plot can pivot.

Sarah is arguably the most important narrative fulcrum. Her attempts and failings to speak need to be completely natural and O’Callaghan ensures that they are so.

Part of Friel’s scheme is that both the Irish and the English language of the play (place names apart) is performed in English. The whole company ensure that, by dint of who they are or how they are speaking, it is clear which language they are using.


Without ever being over the top, the accents are more indicative than always completely perfect. Indeed, that is echoed in the performances themselves. The young student cast are subtle but successful in their approach to the age of the characters ranging from young Doalty, to Hugh in his sixties and the ancient Jimmy Jack,.

Set Manager Lois Zonnenberg’s set is well used, with half the stage covered in earth, and all artfully lit by Freya Game. Most impressive, though is Martha Barrow’s subtle sound design, which is hardly perceptible but adds just enough to hint at what is happening off stage or what is not seen.

A fiddle and flute trio of Anita Klementiev, Kieran Hagan and Jack Ó Coinneacháin provide a thoughtful prelude and interval music. With Ó Coinneacháin delivering a delightful song in Irish before the show’s start that really helps enhance the mood.

This is a very strong account of a great text. It is both engaging and entertaining, while beginning to address, or at least outline, issues of colonialism which have become toxic and confrontational in a different setting.

Review for Translations -

Saturday 04 March - By Dominic Corr for Corr Blimey


Written by Brian Friel

Directed by Aisling Matthews and Catriona Maclachlan

Language is everything. To lose it is to cripple the communication of love, autonomy, and identity. To control it, to manipulate someone, a culture, or a nation’s tongue is to exhibit an ultimate form of authority. And it’s something generations of solely-native English speakers struggle to comprehend.

In the fictional town of Baile Beag (Ballybeg), located in the real County Donegal, this 1980 play set in 1833 pushes itself as a story about language, only about language. And yet, the characters which rise forth and the additional themes which develop are undeniable. This small fictional village, filled with those content with their lives, others less so, is perturbed to discover, at their local hedge-school, the arrival of English troops, with a cartographer, an orthographer, and a young man they find familiar: their intention? To create a new map of the land. One with Anglicised names for the villages. One that omits the Irish origins.

For ease of the audience, the show is performed in English – wirter Brain Friel admits the tale should have been in Irish, but acknowledges the benefits and ability to tie deeper into the politics of it all by choosing the former. The intention, is that the Irish residents communicate in their home language (as well as Latin and Greek) while the English-speaking soldiers struggle to understand them.

Friel’s tale is clever, but not one without structural issues. Traditionally a three-acter, directors Aisling Matthews and Catriona Maclachlan’s pacing compacts the show into two without sacrifice. The Edinburgh University Theatre Company offers a touching and insightful performance, where accents and dialect are honed to a more than acceptable, occasionally perfectly pitched level, carrying the wit within Friel’s words to continue threading through additional elements of politics and story without outright complications.

From the moment audiences sit down, something stinks; in the nicest possible way. Half bark and compost, half fresh wood and board – the setting for Translations conjures the ruralness of it all flawlessly. It’s a particularly slick and effectively staged production, with Freya Game’s lighting design gradually darkening as the mood and temperature of it all slips. And come the opening of act two, as emotions burst with chaos unfolding, a tremendous surprise awaits, rounding out the dank, dreary nature of it all. It’s atmospheric, it’s savvy, and yet it’s a remarkably bare and simple staging allowing the performers to make the most of the space.

Once more, EUTC has the tremendous benefit of a superb cast. Capturing the everyday dimensions of each role with balancing how they all work off one another to enhance. And much of it starts with arguably the smallest, but most significant character, Sarah. A representation of the limitations and restrictions an imposition of not being able to communicate. An affliction her kin will soon share. A forewarning character, Erin O’Callaghan plays the role with a reservation, managing to never dominate or shrink away. It’s a sincere role, often nurtured, though occasionally sternly, by Conor Quinn’s Manus.

A central character, Manus initially appears to be somewhat submissive to the goings on – endlessly infatuated with Máire and unable to truly take command of the classroom, whilst his father Hugh continues to treat his lame son with disdain. Sympathetic, Quinn carries fire into the second act. His response to the curt remarks from Hugh, played with a stiff upper lip by Zac Askham, who gradually crumbles as the weight of it all builds, or the tenderness he shares with Emer Williams’ humourous and even prophetic Jimmy Jack aids in selling Manus as a man who loves his community, but could be pushed to potential extremes once the revelations of act two unfold.

There’s no question as to why his infatuation with Máire nor that of Lieutenant Yolland similar feelings towards her. Josie Embleton is remarkably human and dignified in their holding of Máire. Their interactions with all onstage offer a deeper understanding of her and their characters, the development coming over as authentic and genuine – particularly Embleton’s blossoming relationship with Amiran Antadze’s awkwardly charming Yolland. As the pair forge the path of the story forward, carrying a significantly amiable romance into fruition – feeling authentic in an intimate moment, caught in the misty, cold air of the fields.

And while Quinn and Josie Embleton perform to an enclosed stage, watching one another and reacting, Ruby Joftus and Olivia Martin project towards the audience, turning to them though never in a manner to breach the fourth wall. Neither is the superior method to perform, but the decision in not maintaining a steady communication style across the entire cast leads to flickers where some performances remove the audience from the moment. But by the second act, everyone is on the same page in delivery – and it turns the shorter and more sinisterly tangible act into a pristine five-star hour of stagecraft. Indeed, by the closing moments, the once humorous brilliance of Joftus and Martin is now a shell of anxiety, a reflection on the lives of those younger generations unaware of how things were turning for them.

Hugh’s other son, Owen, is much of the catalyst for the production – returning to his father’s Hedge-school with the news of his involvement with the British forces. Chris Kane has a staggering amount of story to develop but achieves a remarkable pace and allure as Owen attempts to form new relationships and save older ones. Performing particularly seamlessly with Quinn and Antadze, the latter and Kane sharing much stage time, helping the audience form a like for Antadze’s Yolland before his shocking disappearance in act two.

Initially, an almost caricature of the English elite class, bumbling and awkwardly over-polite, this belays Captain Lancey’s (Yolland’s superior) more aggressive and volatile colonist. What initially is fine, if a small role, gives way to a significant eruption of trauma and pain. In such a frozen moment, Lancey declares the punishments to the village if Yolland is not located following his dissapearance. The livestock will be executed, and the residents evicted. In precise, enunciated English, twisting the words Owen has helped craft on the community – Ackery recites all the evicted areas, leaving Owen the agony of translating back. Every anglicised name is a dagger. Kane responds with a steely but a fractured whimper of tarnished pride. It encapsulates the humiliation of it all, the lingering resentments of colonialism, which even after land and property are handed back, leave scars.

Translations is a production about languag – the language of love, identity, and ultimately, authority. There’s one thing which champions language: Art. Film, theatre, spoken word, and sonnet all capture and retain the languages and vernaculars of thousands across the world – long after their mother tongue has been assimilated by invaders, progressors, or colonists. The EUTC understands this, and rather than focusing outright on the dour, on the unsettling and painful result, they focus on the people – a delightful choice which broadens the production and warms, before driving the unfortunate reality of what happened deeper. It’s a continuing testament to the EUTC’s outstanding skill and prestige.

Exudes an Understanding


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