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Playwright Friel dead

‘Great artist’

DUBLIN, Oct 3, (Agencies): Brian Friel, Ireland’s best known playwright of the latter half of the 20th century whose plays including “Dancing at Lughnasa”, “The Faith Healer” and “Translations” were performed throughout the world, died on Friday aged 86, Irish media said.

In his works, many of which were based in the fictional Irish town of Ballybeg, Friel held up a mirror to Irish society and captured relationships, conflicts and contradictions that had a universal resonance.

“He was forensically interrogating our own history, our history of colonisation, our relations with Britain, our relations with the enemy within, sometimes, and he was ruthless about that,” Fiach McConghail, director of the Abbey Theatre, told state broadcaster RTE.

The Abbey, Ireland’s national theatre, produced Friel’s first play,”The Enemy Within” in 1962, while he was still working as a teacher.


Sean Doran, an artistic director who mounted a festival of Friel’s plays in August in Belfast and Donegal in cooperation with the playwright and his family, ranked Friel among the giants of modern Irish writing.

“He was one of the great artists of our culture alongside in my view the great known names of (Samuel) Beckett and (James) Joyce,” Doran told Reuters.

“What was so special about him was that he wrote so majorly of our island, north and south.”

Born in Killcogher, near Omagh, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland in 1929, Friel moved with his family to Londonderry when he was 10. He attended St Columb’s College, where his fellow alumni included the poet Seamus Heaney, who died in 2013.

Friel received his BA from St. Pat’s College, Maynooth in 1948 and qualified as a teacher at St. Joseph’s Training College in Belfast, but shortly thereafter became involved in writing and theatre.

“He wrote fine short stories but he committed himself to the theatre and to having us develop an understanding of who we were as a people, as a people with a very conflicted history,” Anthony Roche, a professor of literature at University College Dublin and author of a book on Friel, told RTE.

“He never did it in a simplifed way, he did it with beautiful language,” Roche said.

Friel won three Tony Awards in 1992 for “Dancing at Lughnasa” a play about five maiden aunts in Ireland in the 1930s. It was turned into a film starring Meryl Streep in 1998.


His plays also won the Evening Standard Award, the Olivier Award and the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award.

Friel wrote 24 published plays, two short-story collections and also adapted works by Ibsen, Chekhov and Turgenev.

Irish President Michael D. Higgins described Friel as “a giant of Irish literature and thought”.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny said in a statement: “The nation and the world have lost one of the giants of theatre. “His mythical stories from Ballybeg reached all corners of the world from Dublin to London to Broadway and onto the silver screen,” Kenny said, referring to the fictional town where Friel set many of his works.

“All of his plays, including ‘Translations’, ‘Faith Healer’, ‘Philadelphia, Here I Come!’ and ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’, will forever form part of the canon of greatness in dramatic writing,” Kenny said.


ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates: Jon Bon Jovi made an onstage gesture to honor a high school football player who died last week in New Jersey after taking a hit on the playing field.

The New Jersey rocker placed a sticker with 17-year-old Evan Murray’s number 18 on his guitar during a concert Thursday in the United Arab Emirates and posted a tribute to him online.

“I heard word about Evan and as a father and as a father of football players, my heart, my prayers and my thoughts go out to the Murray family,” Bon Jovi said in the video posted to YouTube. “To all the team, I wish you the best this season and keep it up guys, all right? Win one for Evan.”

Authorities said Murray, who played for Warren Hills Regional High School in Washington Township, died from massive internal bleeding caused by a lacerated spleen.

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