Brian Friel

Brian Friel with the cast and crew of An Grianán Theatre's production of Translations in 1999.
Brian Friel with the cast and crew of An Grianán Theatre's production of Translations in 1999.

Brian Friel, born 9 January 1929 was an Irish dramatist and was author and director of the Field Day Theatre Company. An adopted son of Donegal, Friel made his home outside Moville for many years. In a career which spaned six decades, he was regarded as one of the greatest living English language dramatists with many of his plays featuring on Broadway.  Brian Friel was born in Omagh to a Tyrone father and a Glenties mother.  He attended St. Coulmb’s College in Derry, alongside other distinguished cultural figures with strong Donegal affiliations such as Seamus Heaney, Seamus Deane, Phil Coulter and Paul Brady.  

During 1999 the Gate Theatre staged/presented ten of his plays.  In 2008 Donegal honoured him on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, with the MacGill Summer School celebrating his literary achievements.  This was followed by further acknowledgment of his birthday with staged readings of his plays in both the Abbey Theatre and the Gate Theatre.  Friel used Donegal as the setting for many of his most memorable plays including, Philadelphia, Here I Come!, Dancing at Lughnasa, Translations, and Faith Healer.  Themes of identity and home suffuse his work in an accessible narrative style.  He has acknowledged a wide range of influence including Chekhov and Ibsen.  Closer to home, he wrote the forward for the critically acclaimed history memoir of Inishowen, The Last of the Name.

Friel has not shirked from acknowledging past events and contemporary politics in his writing.  In 1980 he collaborated with actor Stephen Rea to found The Field Day Theatre Company in an effort to transcend the politics of division and in so doing, encompass an important cultural project.  Field Day was conceived as an artistic response to the violence, history and politics which divided Northern Ireland.  In 2013 during Derry’s reign as City of Culture,  four of Friel’s plays will be performed namely, Performances, Translations, The Enemy Within and The Freedom of the City.  Alongside these productions, The Field Day Story took place – an exhibition of archive material from the National Library of Ireland.

The Freedom of the City was produced by An Grianán Theatre who have a close relationship and affinity with Brian Friel's work and he in turn he has been very supportive of An Grianán. Since opening in 1999 An Grianán have staged Translations, Dancing at Lughnasa, Aristocrats, Faith Healer, Molly Sweeney, Lovers, Making History and The Home Place. They have also produced rehearsed readings of The Gentle Island and Volunteers.