In common with Horton Foote, the American playwright who was in many ways his opposite number, he set virtually all of his plays in a single place, the imaginary town of Ballybeg, a not-quite-fictional canvas on which he painted his subtly colored pictures of the joys and disappointments of village life.
The son of a Catholic schoolmaster and a postmistress, Bernard Patrick Friel was born on January 9, 1929.
Indeed, he has often been described as an “Irish Chekhov”.
“Now that he has died we can begin to see his work as one huge but intimate symphony”, said the Toscaireacht, the governing committee of Aosdána.
Brian Friel, one of Ireland’s best respected playwrights, has passed away at the age of 86.
Brian Friel wrote plays for over four decades.
Beloved of professional and amateur theatre groups, Friel’s work remains extremely popular in Ireland.
Sean Doran, an artistic director who mounted a festival of Friel’s plays in August in Belfast and Donegal in cooperation with the playwright and his family, ranked Friel among the giants of modern Irish writing.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “It was with great sadness I learned of the death of one of one of our greatest ever playwrights Brian Friel“.
The production also starred a relatively unknown actor named Liam Neeson, who performed in a handful of other Friel plays, including “Philadelphia Here I Come“. Its inaugural work, “Translations”, proved its greatest stage triumph, and Field Day inspired a parallel literary project involving future Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney.
“His death is a great loss to Irish theatre and we are grateful for his legacy”.
Brian Friel, the acclaimed Irish playwright behind Translations and Philadelphia, Here I Come!
“His power and persistence, his intelligence and humour, his enormously generous hospitality and friendship informed all of our activities”, he told The Irish Times. Brian made an immeasurable contribution to our cultural heritage which will long survive any of us.
Two years later he moved from Derry to Greencastle in Co Donegal, where among other works he penned The Loves Of Cass McGuire, Lovers, The Mundy Scheme, The Freedom Of The City, Volunteers, Living Quarters and Faith Healer.
His masterpiece was “Faith Healer“, a haunting 1979 play about three people and their interlocking memories. Like Yeats, he was offered the chance to have an official say in public affairs when Charles Haughey appointed him an independent member of Senate for two years from 1987. According to the Telegraph, his writing never lost its native flavor or concern for the condition of the Irish.