Brian Friel died yesterday aged 86. Often called the Irish Chekhov, it is fair to say that his death is a loss not just to Ireland but to the world. He may only have written about Ireland, but what he wrote was universal as he constantly explored the boundaries between the past and the present, memory and reality.
In 2009 he explained that,
For me the true gift of theatre, the real benediction of all art, is the ringing bell which reverberates quietly and persistently in the head long after the curtain has come down and the audience has gone home.
He wrote more than thirty plays in his long career and leaves a stunning theatrical legacy.
Philadelphia, Here I Come!, Translations, Lovers, Dancing at Lughnasa, Faith Healer, The Freedom of the City, Aristocrats, Molly Sweeney, The Home Place, Fathers and Sons, The Loves of Cass Maguire. The list goes on.
It is a fitting tribute that the 1st Lughnasa International Friel Festival has just finished in Northern Ireland, augmenting his status as one of the country’s greatest writers.
His work and his words will live on….
RIP Brian Friel, 1929 – 2015
…It drifts in from somewhere far away – a mirage of sound – a dream music that is both heard and imagined; that seems to be both itself and its own echo; a sound so alluring and so mesmeric that the afternoon is bewitched, maybe haunted, by it. And, what is so strange about that memory is that everybody seems to be floating on those sweet sounds, moving rhythmically, languorously, in complete isolation; responding more to the mood of the music than to its beat.
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.
Dancing as if language no longer existed because words were no longer necessary…
From Dancing at Lughnasa