Niall Buggy has a huge presence in this gripping play by Brian Friel. As Hugh, the school master of a 'hedge' school in Donegal in 1883, he quotes in Latin and encourages his children to love language and its derivations. Hedge schools at the time literally took place behind a hedge - with one pupil as the look-out as the government tried to phase them out. The Gaelic speaking Irish were gradually being encouraged to speak English at one of the new Anglophone national schools, but small communities stuck rigidly to their love of their native language . Men of learning at the time also spoke Latin and Greek, firmly believing that great story-telling enriched the soul, besides which there was not much choice of other entertainment at the time so a good story-teller was always in demand.

In Translations, which is directed by James Grieve, we see the intrusion of the English army into this corner of Ireland as they come to Anglicise the Irish place names for the Ordnance Survey. The pompous red-coated captain, and his slightly wimpish but keen cartographer tend to treat the locals as inferiors and Hugh's son, returning from many years in England, acts as their translator. The inter-action between the local Irish and the arrogant, yet often awkward, soldiers is beautifully portrayed. Indeed the casting in this production is superb, with each character richly drawn. The story has elements of great humour yet the under-lying theme is one of sadness as we see a community struggle and fall through the pressures of modernisation.

This is a wonderful script with words to be savoured and quotes to be cherished but wordy it is. The first half is long but happily Friel's original script has not been cropped. Grieve explains that while the play was in production he grew to value Friel's writing more and more. He says that ' every word is perfect and as a result we've been faithful to the text.' This is a story about relationships, between families, friends, lovers, colleagues - and it truly makes you wonder at the power of language and the importance of dialect.

But without an experienced and passionate cast, I feel much of these themes could be lost to the wind. Happily the English Touring Theatre, as always, has pulled together a great team, both on and off the stage. When an audience starts an evening laughing, but leaves in an altered, more ponderous frame of mind, I feel another great evening has quietly been achieved in the greatness of live theatre. See this if you can, and spend the following few days considering language, words and the responsibility of accurate translation.

Translations is at the Rose Theatre, Kingston until Saturday, May 3rd.

www.rosetheatrekingston.org 08444 821556