“It is not the literal past, the ‘facts’ of history, that shape us, but images of the past embodied in language,” declares Hugh the hedge-school master in Brian Friel’s masterly play, Translations.
A playwright for whom the niceties of language and memory and the ballast they carry are everything, Friel is celebrated on Radio 4 Extra this coming week in conjunction with his native Londonderry’s incumbency as 2013 UK City of Culture.
Two of his most celebrated plays, FAITH HEALER and TRANSLATIONS, are broadcast today and tomorrow, while STAGING IRELAND looks at the company which premiered it, Field Day, the radical theatre group Friel launched in Derry in 1980 with Stephen Rea, as Northern Ireland was wracked by violence. The company was both celebrated as a breath of fresh air and accused of being a theatrical wing of the IRA.
Other programmes include the wry BRIAN FRIEL: SELF PORTRAIT, in which the playwright, famously reluctant to be interviewed, conducts an interview with himself, originally recorded for Radio Ulster in 1971.
Meanwhile, as part of BBC’s “Baroque Spring” season, BAROQUE IN BRITAIN looks at “the art of extravagance”, as the style has been labelled, and how a fashion so associated with southern Europe, in terms of music, painting and sculpture, caught on in grey Britain. Art historian Tim Marlow begins his quest with the execution of Charles I – carried out under a painting by Rubens.
More sanguinary history as Radio Scotland’s Crime and Punishment season continues, with Billy Kay’s history of murder, KILLING, looking at women murderers, while crime writer Louise Welsh does time in HOW TO GO TO JAIL. Welsh is joined by comedian Gary Little, who has been a guest of Her Majesty in a past life, and policewoman turned crime writer Karen Campbell, as she samples life inside looking out.
Faith Healer - Tonight, Radio 4 Extra, 10pm
Staging Ireland - Tomorrow, Radio 4 Extra, 11:30am
Translations - Tomorrow, Radio 4 Extra, 1:30pm
Brian Friel: Self Portrait - Tomorrow, Radio 4 Extra, 7:10am
Baroque in Britain - Monday, Radio 4, 1:45pm
Killing - Monday, Radio Scotland, 2:05pm
How to Go to Jail - Tuesday, Radio Scotland, 2:05pm