Former United States president Bill Clinton labbeled Friel “as an Irish treasure for the entire world”.
“His is a body of work that will endure”.
Translations (1980), set in Ireland in the 1830s, is about the struggle for people to understand one another, expressed through the imperialistic British’s campaign to anglicize Irish place names. He often said that an invented or conflated memory could convey a greater sense of truth than a faithfully recorded snippet of reality. These were talents that he delivered with great humor, grit and compassion. Were it not for the steadfast devotion of the Irish Repertory Theatre, which produces his plays off Broadway at regular intervals, he would be even less familiar to New York audiences.
Brian Friel was born in Omagh, in 1929 but moved to Donegal in 1967 after becoming a teacher.
He died peacefully at his home after battling a long illness.
Friel’s London-based agent, Leah Schmidt, said he was a world-class playwright and a wonderful man.
Its chair, Sheila Pratschke, said: “His legacy is a truly remarkable canon of work – work which has already achieved classic status in his lifetime, and which will go on to be produced for many years to come”. Such talk is quintessentially Irish, yet you needn’t know anything about Ireland to understand the men and women who speak it. Whether you come from County Donegal or southeast Missouri, you grew up with them.
“He said it gave his heart a life to know we were acknowledging his work”. Told in four successive but dissenting accounts by three speakers – the consummate performer (or dazzling huckster) Frank Hardy, his wife and their English manager, Teddy – the play traces the mixed fortunes of their touring show and a fateful homecoming, but it is also as a meditation on the creative act.
“I was proud to support the recent inaugural Lughnasa worldwide Friel Festival, which was funded by Belfast City Council, and was a ideal tribute to him”.
Friel’s voice was a quiet, but assured one, one that always concentrated on the frail humanity of his fallible characters.
Irish taoiseach Enda Kenny said Friel’s death was a loss to Ireland and the world. She described Brian Friel as a skilled storyteller.
But he was repeatedly referred to as an inspiration. He also wrote radio plays, as well as articles for the The Irish Press to stay afloat.
Friel’s early recognition began with short stories being published in The New Yorker before his first two collections, The Saucer Of Larks and The Gold In The Sea. He earned tremendous acclaim for his breakthrough play, 1964’s Philadelphia, Here I Come!
He studied at St Columb’s College, Derry, and became a teacher.
Field Day’s first production was of Friel’s play Translations.
And no one did that any better than the playwright Brian Friel, who died Thursday at 86. Symbolic and profound, the play itself might serve as evidence: it bombed on Broadway but later created a theatrical legend in Donal McCann’s celebrated Abbey performance, and it is now widely considered to be Friel’s greatest work.
WRITER Seamus Deane said his friend Brian Friel helped bring theatre to a wider audience.
Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin paid tribute to the man he described as an iconic figure and tremendous artistic craftsman.