[In Fathers and Sons] ‘Friel has injected enough Irish liveliness into the traditional Russian gloom and languor to supply constant and welcome changes of mood and pace.’ — James Downey
‘For you happiness always seemed to be just that one step beyond your reach but
. . . you still believed that some day you would grasp it.’
Brian Friel’s affinity with great Russian writers is manifest in a lifetime’s devotion that includes his Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya and The Yalta Game, based on Chekhov, and in Aristocrats, his own homage to that master, and another play, A Month in the Country, after Turgenev.
Fathers and Sons is a subtly, inventive distillation of Turgenev’s novel of 1861, in which Brian Friel explores further a relationship that permeates his original plays — from Gar and S B O’Donnell in Philadelphia, Here I Come!, through Casimir and the Judge in Aristocrats, to Manus (and, indeed, Owen) and Hugh in Translations. As the play unfolds over the summer and autumn of 1859, it pits debates about codes, masks and ‘silly notions of class and decorum’ against those about moral obligations and the need to ‘remake’ a society.
Out of one classic Ireland’s greatest playwright fashioned another.