“Y Tad” – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru (A Welsh Translation of Florian Zeller’s “The Father”)

Terry Eagleton reminds us that in order for tragedy to occur, then the protagonist must be in search of their own complete individual identity of freedom [1]. That freedom, as I understand it, comes in multiple forms. Usually, if we begin in the Aristotelian sense, the harmatia (or, the tragic “flaw”) is that the character cannot be in control of the desired fate that (in ancient terms) the gods have set for them. In the case of Y Tad, that fate is out of the hands of Arwyn, the central protagonist of this story. As previously mentioned in my...

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“Pollock” A Play By Fabrice Melquiot: Conversation with French Director Paul Desveaux

A production from Compagnie L’Héliotrope, and co-presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. in New York and Abrons Arts Center with Jim Fletcher and Birgit Huppuch. In the play, Pollock acclaimed French playwright Fabrice Melquiot highlights how it is impossible to fully understand the brilliance and madness of Jackson Pollock without studying his marriage to artist Lee Krasner. Pollock translated into English by Kenneth Casler & Myriam Heard, and directed by Paul Desveaux, Compagnie L’Héliotrope, explores the charged empty space between Pollock—performed by Jim Fletcher—and Krasner—performed by Birgit Huppuch(*); between his genius and her spirit; between the inhibitions of the former and the frustrations...

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“I Feel As If I’m Loosing My Leaves:” Translatability Of Theme Through Language In Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s Production Of Florian Zeller’s “Y Tad”

The universality of Florian Zeller’s undiminished modern masterpiece The Father has ceased to lose its translatability to a wider global audience. There aren’t many plays in the contemporary repertoire which have gauged the same excitement and fascination by audiences, scholars and theatre-makers alike. Here in September, the premiere of a recent Dutch translation by Jolijn Tevel reached the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam’s Leidseplein[i]. This month, Wales’ flagship Welsh language theatre company Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru will be the first company in Wales to present the inaugural Welsh translation by Geraint Løvgreen. The Play. The Father, premiered in Paris in 2015 (entitled Le...

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On Words In Motion: “Brodsky/Baryshnikov”

In scholarly debates on contemporary theatre, the question about language has primary importance. Critics as well as scholars, interested in diversity on stage, often discuss the advantages and the limitations of using two or more languages, the working of surtitles, and the rules of hospitality when a producing company decides not to translate their productions to the host audience. Brodsky/Baryshnikov (directed by Alvis Hermanis) that played this weekend in Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre, with Mikhail Baryshnikov on stage reciting the poetry of his close friend and recipient of the 1987 Noble Prize in Literature, Joseph Brodsky, is proof in...

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A Theoretical Polarization Between Performability Versus Readability Or Towards “The Metaphysics Of A (Play) Text?”

In this essay, I want to discuss the interface the Semiotics of Theater and Theater Translation as well as about the theoretical polarization between the notions of performability and readability in Theater Translation since the mid-1980s. In the first part of the article, I present the different approaches to the study of theater put forward by theater semioticians like Zich, Mukařovský, Bogatyrëv, and Honzl (semioticians of the Prague School), Kowzan, and Ubersfeld. I also demonstrate how all theater semioticians’ agreement that the dramatic text (written text) is radically conditioned by its performability (mise en scène) has had a great impact upon translation studies and has led some theoreticians of translation studies to reexamine their position towards translating theater texts. In...

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From Skopje To London Via Hungarian And English: András Visky’s “The Unburied”

In November 2017, a world premiere by one of the Hungarian language’s leading playwrights was staged in a subterranean, site-specific production in London’s eastern borough of Hackney.  The play’s translator Jozefina Komporaly describes how this tale, based on the life of a woman born in Skopje, found its way to London via Hungarian, Romania, English, and one international theatre company’s pioneering theatre translation programme. [Foreign Affairs] theatre company was set up in 2010 by artistic directors Camila França and Trine Garrett with the express aim of championing dramatic traditions other than that of the Anglophone world. As an international organization...

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‘Les Incorrigibles’: The Publishing House Championing Spanish Theatre in France

Despite Spain being a near neighbor, Spanish theatre has enjoyed relatively little exposure in France.  After a decade living and working in the Spanish capital, editor, translator and theatre practitioner David Ferré set out to change this.  I discovered theatre by discovering a language:  Spanish.  The ten years I spent in the Madrid theatre scene, from 1991-2001, are the foundation of the work I do today as a translator and publisher, in Spain, Mexico, and France. Spanish playwriting is exceptionally vibrant.  Playwrights are at the center of a renewal in Spanish theatre aesthetics, raising the stakes in our understanding...

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A View From The Bridge: The Dramaturg’s Work on A Play in Translation

When talking about translation, statistics show an alarming picture. The United Kingdom has the lowest rate of published works in translation within the EU:  only around 2-3% of annual books published, including fiction and non-fiction. Literary translations were around a fifth of this figure–a fraction! To convert this into book numbers: out of the 100,000 different titles published in the UK in 1998, around 380 were from the literary domain. [i] I dare guess that probably plays in translation counted for only a fraction of this figure. Experience shows that plays in translation commonly appear on the British stage as readings rather than full productions. It is only a small number of theatres in Britain who can invest in commissioning a translation, and take the risk of producing foreign plays (Traverse, Gate, Young Vic, Old Vic, Donmar, Almeida, Arcola as well as the Royal Court and...

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Intercultural Theatre Practices – Interview With Frances Barbe

Interview conducted as part of the media partnership between Culture360 and International Theatre Institute (ITI).  Frances Barbe is a Director, Choreographer, and Performer and one of the speakers at the Asian Intercultural Conference in Singapore (which took place on 27-30 November 2017). Frances has shared her extensive experience in working in intercultural theatre and in particular with different training techniques, including butoh dance. Frances has worked all over the world. Her training combines western dance and theatre with contemporary Japanese approaches including butoh dance and Suzuki’s actor-training. She is Senior Lecturer at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in Perth where she runs...

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“Goats” by Syrian Playwright Liwaa Yazjiat at The Royal Court

The civil war in Syria spawns image after image of hell on earth. Staging the stories of that conflict presents a challenge to playwrights: how do you write about horror in a way that is both accurate and entertaining? Goats, by Syrian playwright and documentary film-maker Liwaa Yazji, translated by Katharine Halls, is part of the Royal Court’s international project with writers from Syria and Lebanon and takes up this challenge. Her angle is to look at propaganda and to show how truth is the first casualty of war. She also examines what happens when that propaganda is questioned. Set in a...

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An Interview With Noah Birksted-Breen: Falling In Love With New Russian Plays

Noah Birksted-Breen is the artistic director of London’s Sputnik Theatre Company, which he co-founded in 2005. Sputnik is dedicated to translating and producing contemporary Russian plays in Britain. How did you come to the contemporary Russian theatre? I studied Russian language and literature at high school. I enjoyed it and kept going. I studied Modern Languages, Russian, and French at Oxford University. In retrospect, it may look like there was a plan but there wasn’t! I just found that I enjoyed languages and was lucky enough to have Russian on offer at my high school (which is fairly rare)…I...

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Natalya Vorozhbit’s “Bad Roads” At The Royal Court: Russian And Ukrainian Drama In The UK

This November, the Royal Court Theatre in London stages the global premiere of Ukrainian playwright Natalia Vorozhbit’s play Bad Roads in an English language translation by Sasha Dugdale. Vorozhbit is one of the most exciting writers of contemporary Ukrainian theatre, producing plays in both Ukrainian and Russian languages. Her multifaceted plays have been performed in Russia, Ukraine, and internationally, and are often united in their uncompromising confrontation of contemporary life and society in the former Soviet Union. Vorozhbit’s theatre is synonymous with the explosion of new theatre writing, produced by a new generation of dramatists in the 2000s, which...

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Eurydice Among the Shades – Elfriede Jelinek’s “Shadow. Eurydice Says” in NYC

Elfriede Jelinek’s Shadow. Eurydice Says is not much of a drama, if by that is meant a presentation with a plot, distinct characters, and scenic development. Written as a block of more or less stream-of-consciousness text, the play might be staged as a long, self-involved monologue. In a recent staging at the ARACA Project, director Jessica Rizzo finds a way to create visual interest, conflict, movement, and distinct fluctuations of affect in Jelinek’s wordy diatribe. Nine actresses, designated in the program by letters, A-I, undertake the rigors of the text, scripted for different speakers by Rizzo and her dramaturg Ilinca Tamara...

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An Inconvenient Truth – Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” at Yale Rep

Thanks to Trump’s designation of the press as “the enemy of the people,” the question of what exactly that phrase means is in the air again. In the playbill for the Yale Repertory Theatre production of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, directed by James Bundy from a new translation by Paul Walsh, we are apprised of the many times in history that some party or policy or organization has aimed that epithet at an antagonist. In the play, Dr. Thomas Stockmann (Reg Rogers) has the phrase hurled at him due to his discovery of information that would undermine...

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My Translation Odyssey: Translating Alexandra Badea’s “The Pulverised”

Currently performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Lucy Phelps is an actor and translator whose début theatre translation, The Pulverised by Franco-Romanian writer Alexandra Badea, premiered in May 2017 at London’s Arcola Theatre, before opening at York Theatre Royal in June.  In this article, she describes her own journey from acting into translation, and from page back to stage, and shares her reflections on the role of the translator in theatre. I caught the translation bug back in 2008. Wait, I lie. I can actually trace some early symptoms back to the year 2000 when, on a childhood trip...

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Where And How To Find Foreigner-Friendly Performances In Moscow’s Theaters

Moscow is an excellent venue for devoted drama connoisseurs, even if you don’t speak Russian. Here are five foreign-friendly performances (with subtitles) to quench your theatrical thirst. Boris Godunov  – Bolshoi Theater This story of intrigue, betrayal, and struggle for the Russian throne is the pearl in the crown of the Bolshoi Theater this season, and it’s somewhat like the Russian equivalent of Game of Thrones. Poet Alexander Pushkin popularized this true story of Tsar Boris Godunov and late 16th century Moscow court intrigue when he published his play in 1831. Almost 40 years later, however, Modest Mussorgsky transformed...

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Supertitles Galore At The 2017 Avignon Festival: Necessary Or Not?

I’ve recently returned from the Avignon Festival where I’m sure I saw more shows with supertitles than ever before. As a supertitle artist myself and having just finished a translation of a book on supertitles for the theatre, my experience in Avignon has made me even more aware of the important role supertitles must play even if the challenge of reading them can be frustrating and annoying, to say the least. Ibsen Huis Ibsen Huis, by Simon Stone, for example, an epic four-hour piece in Dutch, was especially provocative.  The play, a social drama filled with characters that hint...

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“The Maids”: A New Stage of Power and Performance

The Taiwan-based theatre troupe, Yang’s Ensemble, used to deal mostly with Sino-centric cultures and societies in its works, but this year, the troupe turns to French dramatist Jean Genet’s classic, The Maids. As in his previous pieces, director Chinghsiang Yang imbues the play with vivid images and employs symbols and contrasts to highlight the performative aspects underlying the text and to explore the power struggles among the three characters. The performance is no longer set in Madame’s bedroom as indicated in the playtext but in a bright, spotless greenhouse. At the center of the stage is a two-layered steel...

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“Buried Child” in Hong Kong: Disparate Americana

American Travis Preston directed this production of Sam Shepard’s Buried Child for the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre based on Anthony Chan’s new Cantonese translation. Instead of localizing the language, Chan opted to retain some of the original English text to mixed success — Shelly’s initial singing of “Old McDonald Had a Farm” seemed most appropriate in English, but Vince’s singing of the “U.S Marine Corps Hymn” (or even knowing the song’s title) may have been difficult for many in the audience to grasp. Much of the original sparse dialogue with rich subtext was retained in this translation, which points...

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