Ukraine’s national theatre – the Lesya Ukrainka National Academic Drama Theatre – will bring its production of Brian Friel’s Translations to the Abbey stage from Tuesday, 20th – Saturday, 24th of June. A 27 strong theatre company will travel from Kyiv to perform the canonical Irish text, which illuminates the determination of a people to persist and ensure their culture endures in the most difficult of circumstances. The performance will be in Ukrainian with English surtitles provided. The theatre premiered its version of the play in October 2022. The partnership is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Set in Ireland in 1833, Translations engages with a moment of profound change and the defacing of local heritage and history. It raises questions of cultural sovereignty and self-determination which continue to resonate profoundly today. The story of a country where landmarks and place names are being eradicated and renamed in a new language, closely chimes with the lived experience of the company of artists at the Lesya Ukrainka National Academic Drama Theatre.

Tánaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Micheál Martin TD commented: “I am delighted to support this new partnership between Ukraine and Ireland’s national theatres as a significant deepening of civil society and cultural links, a recognition of our shared European perspective, and an important gesture of inclusion to the Ukrainian community in Ireland.”

Commenting Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD said: “It is striking how Brian Friel’s Translations can reflect the same societal struggles across continents and across the centuries. I commend all concerned for making this happen. Art is a universal language and is truly a reflection of society and culture.”

Assistant Managing Director for International Affairs at Lesya Ukrainka National Academic Drama Theatre, Anastasya Pavlenko added: “From the first days of the war, Lesya Ukrainka National Academic Drama Theatre has been defending the cultural front and supporting those who are fighting on the front lines. Showing the performance in Ireland is a way to remind the world that we exist, that we are still alive. It is a way of expressing gratitude to the people of Ireland, who were one of the first to open their borders and provide shelter for internally displaced persons. This is an opportunity to remind those who are not at home about home. Translations is about us.”

Co-Directors of the Abbey Theatre, Caitríona McLaughlin and Mark O’Brien said: “Sometimes an idea is too compelling and critical to ignore.

“When Stephen Rea talks about helicopters in Derry flying low over the Guildhall in a strategic attempt to drown out their original 1980 performance of Translations, you get a sense of how dangerous and potent the spoken word can be. When he and John Cunningham then sit in the Abbey Theatre bar and explain that the Lesya Ukrainka National Academic Drama Theatre have been performing the play in Kiev for the last year, you understand something else too; that in this moment it is our national theatre’s civic duty to make sense of the world we’re living in by presenting their response to the cataclysmic events they’re currently living through.

“When the Abbey produced Translations last year, we were reflecting on 1833, the year the play is set, and on the legacy of the ordinance survey mapping of Ireland, and the violent imposition of place names by a colonising force. Partition, civil war, Bloody Sunday, the peace process, and the Good Friday Agreement, are all part of that legacy. Our production reflected on that moment in history, on whose voices we hear, and on why we predominantly speak English on our island.

“This production, performed in Ukrainian, is a necessary act of linguistic resistance. It says: our language will survive, our culture will endure, and we will fight. This remarkable and protean work of art reminds us that the worst elements of Ireland in 1833 are now the lived reality of other nations in 2023. For a moment let us consider the possibility of a different ending.”

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Tickets are available for €5 for people displaced by war or crisis. For group bookings at this price, please email