Writers: Brian Friel


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Time & Place
baile beag, a donegal village, 19th century ireland, ballybeg, 1833
Cast Size
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes mature adult, young adult, adult, late teen characters


Translations is set in a small Irish town in the summer of 1833. Hugh O'Donnell is the headmaster of a hedge school, a rural school that teaches basic education to farm families. Hugh's older son, Manus, teaches there with him. Hugh insists on teaching in Irish, even though he knows that the language will inevitably change to English. His younger son, Owen, comes to town with the Royal Engineers, who are mapping the Irish countryside. Owen helps the engineers anglicize the Irish town names. One of the engineers, the English Lieutenant Yolland, is captivated by Irish culture and believes the work they are doing is an act of destruction. A love triangle develops between Manus, Yolland, and Maire, a strong, young woman in the village. Yolland disappears mysteriously, and Manus leaves town, broken-hearted. Owen realizes he must remain true to his roots and decides to join the Irish resistance. The play ends ambiguously, with no resolution to the stories. Friel's play demonstrates the relationship between language and culture and the ways we choose to ignore or break down our cultural barriers.

Lead Characters

Translations guide sections