Brian Friel, 1929 – 2015
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
Irish Literature brian friel chekhov dancing at lughnasa faith healer phildelphia here i come rip translations
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Lovely post. Friel will indeed be missed. Although his plays are universally respected I think he was able to tap into true sense of what it feels like to be Irish. I think this is one of the reasons why he work is so loved at home.
The outpouring of love for him has been so nice to see – his body of work is so impressive.
I have not read any of his plays. Can you recommend a place to start?
My favourite is Faith Healer (which can almost read like a novella) but Philadelphia and Dancing at Lughnasa perfectly capture his style and themes.
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I remember reading Translations in a graduate class.
I will look out for any of Friel’s plays in London. That extract is so poetic.
He’s very good at finding the poetic in the everyday…
Thanks. He was a truly great writer. The ‘magic’ of the theatre is often spoken of but in my view rarely present. It was frequently present in Friel plays. Re the Chekhov comparison I think of the line about a string breaking in heaven when I think about Friel’s death. Regards Thom.