Translations was written and first performed in 1980 to launch the Field Day Theater Company, an artistic collaboration between Friel and Actor Stephen Rea. The company rehearsed and premiered the play in Derry with the hope of establishing a major theatre company for Northern Ireland that would create a space that transcended the violent oppositions of Irish politics and unify, if only for a short time, the various factions of a divided community. The play was an enormous popular and critical success.
Translations examines the relationship of language to identity, memory, history, and community. It is a statement, albeit an ambiguous one, about colonialism, and about the problematic and complex spectrum of choices the colonized faces between resistance and acquiescence.