Translations at The Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
On Thursday evening last (28th March) I enjoyed attended a performance of Brian Friel’s play Translations at The Gaiety Theatre. The production is directed by Adrian Dunbar, Set Designed by Stuart Marshall, Costume Design by Helen Quigley, Lighting Design by Conleth White, Hair and Make-up Design was not credited.
The scenographic interpretation and staged presentation while being somewhat visually appealing, effective and economical also has questions to answer about the collaboration between the Director and Designers and their meeting of minds. The performance space was book ended on both sides by two high light toned flats and crowned by large cut-out profile of a huge wind swept thorn bush. While the Costume Design was sumptuous and effective the Lighting Design seemed to be compromised, perhaps by the set or the direction, or perhaps trying to say too much about time and place. The visual presentation of a wordy, heavy on dialogue play as Translations is, needs the psychological visual support of the designers to encourage and settle the focus of the audience’s attention on the delivery of the author’s words and the performance of the cast.
The lit set is visible to the audience as they take their seats and the performance opens with a light change to darkness and the quiet arrival on stage of some of the characters.
The play is scripted to open in a hedge-school in the far west of Ireland, followed by a starry night scene as the youths of the parish make their way to and from a local dance and the final scene is set in and around the hedge school.
Stuart Marshall successfully amalgamates the interior-exterior spaces and sets the play in the wind swept west of Ireland. The design goes some distance in allowing for the seamless, smooth, unfolding of the play, in that it minimises the interruption of scene changes between the acts (with some exceptions) on the immersion and engagement of the audience in the performance. This theatrical immersion was supported by the resetting of the furniture, dressing props and hand props by the in-character cast during the performance. The absence of an upstage-centre step to give the cast a more comfortable access to and from the wide upstage rostrum looked and was awkward for the cast. The height and brightness of the two side flats with the window opes is questionable as was the presentation of the hedge school was it interior or exterior? Did the two flats need to be so high did they need to be so bright all the way up to the top? Does not west of Ireland rural vernacular architecture not tend to be single story sometimes with a low loft area?
The colour and brightness of the back projected sky, the attention to the costumes and attention to the bare feet and hair styles of the characters did enhance the feeling of remote village life in 1833 West of Ireland. This ambience was supported and maintained by Conleth White’s lighting and lighting changes that brought us from a sun lit coastline exterior to a dark, star lit night-time beach scene and back again to the hedge school interior/exterior scenes. However the height and brightness of the two side flats is questionable as was the absence of localising lit performance areas. Was the hedge school interior or exterior?
Costume Designer, Helen Quigley’s costume concepts ably capture the images of native peasant characters on the western seaboard of Ireland in 1833 as recorded in paintings of the period.
The un-credited Hair and Make-up Artist/Designer ably and convincingly supported the performers in their character with unkempt hair, dirty bare feet, the smart, sharp look of the military and groomed look of the returned son of the house; all reflect the style of society at the time.
The programme at a Fiver (€5) was poor value, other production companies provide useful content such as the Director’s view on the play and comments and sketches by the designers giving their insight into some of the thought process behind the concept development. Such input from the Designers is of immense value to students of Performance, Design for Performance and Design for Stage and Screen and is to be encouraged and when provided, welcomed.
Adrian Dunbar: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001160/
Stuart Marshall: http://www.irishtheatreonline.com/ita/itaprofile.aspx?id=1605
Helen Quigley: http://www.irishplayography.com/person.aspx?personid=16024
Conleth White: http://ie.linkedin.com/pub/conleth-white/18/753/674http://www.irishtheatreonline.com/ita/itaprofile.aspx?id=1835
Gaiety Theatre: http://gaietytheatre.ie/
Millennium Forum Productions http://www.millenniumforum.co.uk/