Brian Friel Drama Analysis
Brian Friel’s dramatic output, wide-ranging in subject matter though it is, possesses a notable consistency of theme, tone, and attitude to the stage. Whether a Friel play’s pretext is the mission of St. Columbia, Derry’s patron saint, to the island of Iona in the sixth century (The Enemy Within), or the living room of decaying gentlefolk (Aristocrats), a hedge school in nineteenth century rural Ireland (Translations), or the encampment of a traveling show (Crystal and Fox or rather differently, Faith Healer), familiar themes recur. Their recurrence, however, is invariably fresh, given new life by the author’s unfailing sympathy and the suppleness with which he shapes unexpected cultural nuances. Such flexibility and control may be seen as an expression of the author’s essential good nature. In his plays, one can also see, however, one of his uvre’s most consistent traits, his daring use of theater itself. Friel’s work shows a marked flair for dramaturgical experimentation, but the experiments themselves are exclusively in the service of broader human concerns, revealing how hollow yet how inevitable ritualized behavior can be, for example, or economically contrasting characters’ public and private spaces. A consummate orchestrator of theatrical space and (as is increasingly evident from his later work) the possessor of a light, though commanding, touch with ensemble work, Friel’s is preeminently a...
(The entire section is 4539 words.)
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