If you dream of a monosyllabic title for your hit play, you can’t get any more evocative than Hugh Leonard when he gave his the simple name of Da. Not only is it short, not only does it spell out the theme of filial sentiment in a single flap of the tongue, it damn near makes sense visually. The two bulky letters face each other, different in size and stature, forever at odds and yet inseparable. Like father. Like son. Duh.
For a brief moment in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it seemed Ireland could have done no wrong in terms of movies that were unashamedly local and universal at the same time. The same feat would be repeated by Iran in the mid-’90s and by Romania in the new millennium, but the string of Irish films of note—starting out with The Dead, Eat the Peach, and Da, and culminating with the golden era bookended by Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father—has been hugely inspiring in terms of attracting global audiences to local themes. (In fact, one of the best films of the entire surge was John Irvin’s Widows’ Peak, based on a script by no other than Leonard.)
I have a special fondness for Da: Leonard’s play is one of several I translated into my native Polish, and it’s also the only one of those to be published. Naturally, I spent a long time with Leonard’s words. As I ploughed through the text, I wondered how the whole thing would work on the stage, given its complex time structure. This I’ve yet to discover; the movie, however, still works very well.