Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Adrian Nobel does Friel

“I’ve only done one other interview in Ireland this time and the words never even cropped up,” says Adrian Noble, speaking about the Royal Shakespeare Company, of which he was director for several tempestuous years. Not speaking about his controversial times as head of the theatre are, of course, not an option when it comes the British press. In Ireland, however, we’re all apparently much more interested in the latest from Brian Friel, The Home Place.

The English director says he jumped at the chance of directing the Home Place. “It’s not just a Friel play, it’s a big, new, major Friel…It would be impossible to say no to directing such a play.”

Noble suggests that the play has very particular resonances given the changes in Dublin he notices since his previous visit here, to direct. “In 1990, I did not see a single black face on the streets, didn’t here one voice that wasn’t speaking Irish or English. Well, all that has clearly changed…”

The remark is spurred by the central scenes in The Home Place, in which a Richard, gentleman-scientist, who is staying in the local big house in Balybeg, sets about scientifically measuring the local population as though they were nothing more than a herd a unusual cattle. Accidental or not, the scene recalls the images of Sadam Hussein being prodded by American surgeons.

“It was the beginning of the science of genetics. After that would come Darwin and the Nazis…but for Richard is about trying to understand. He has a kind of confidence in what he is doing that can be oppressive,”

The character is required to go the journey, to be on the brink. Tom has the sensitivity to bring it off.

Has the gloss disappeared for Irish playwrighting? “I suppose that writers like McPherson and McDonagh have been doing it for quite a few years now, so that initial flush of vitality is over. But they are both major talents…”

As it happens, McPherson’s latest, Shining City, found a warmer reception from English critics than it did from some Irish ones, something I mention to Noble, who it turns out, is clearly a fan of the play.

“Well, then they were wrong, weren’t they…”

The Home Place, The Gate, Dublin

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