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WE are warned not to speak ill of the dead and we often indulge in polite fictions to avoid conflict. In Brian Friels’s case such evasions are unnecessary, his life and work are very easy to celebrate.
Through his work he enriched our lives and left a legacy that will reward those who cherish it for generations to come. Almost unbelievably it is closer to half a century than quarter of a century since the Field Day production of Translations — with Stephen Rea and Liam Neeson — played in Cork Opera House. I clearly remember what was a deeply stimulating and sobering production. The work challenged so many of the truths taught in our schools. It asked fundamental questions about the history we wrapped around ourselves. That production made a contribution to changing the way conflit is resolved on this island and for that alone we are in Friel’s debt. It is almost as much a celebration as a lament to suggest that in the interim we have not seen more than two productions on that opera house stage that might bear comparison. It is also pertinent, just hours after Friel’s death, to ask if we have the appetite for such politically challenging work today or if we will, especially in 2016, celebrate the received wisdoms as if they were the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
May he rest in peace.
Sean de Paor
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