Dr Margherita Laera, University of Kent

According to the British Theatre Repertoire Survey, in 2013 only 3.2% of all the plays performed in the UK were in translation, and yet according to the Migration Observatory, 12.5% of UK residents are foreign-born, only 80% of the population identifies as ‘white British’ and hundreds of languages are spoken in the country’s schools, especially in London. The lack of diversity in British theatres is highlighted in a 2014 Arts Council England report, stating: ‘It is vital that the arts and cultural workforce becomes more representative of the society it serves’.

This two-year project argues that translation has a key role to play in fostering equality in the performing arts. In order to make British theatres attractive to, and representative of, a more diverse audience, this project proposes to further, and widen awareness of, existing debates on the ethics and politics of translation among practitioners, industry professionals, translators, audiences, students and scholars. At a time when immigration is at the centre of the political agenda and nationalist, anti-European sentiments are on the rise, theatre translation and the representation of otherness on stage can offer a public arena for intercultural dialogue.

Translating Theatre: ‘Foreignisation’ on Stage – the first research phase of the wider project Translation Adaptation Otherness: ‘Foreignisation’ in Theatre Practice – carries out research and public engagement activities that place the politics of translation and the representation of otherness through theatre in the public eye. The research investigates questions such as: What are the current dominant translation/adaptation strategies in theatre? What constitutes a ‘foreignising’ approach to theatre translation/adaptation? Can the same approach work for different kinds of sources? What are the effects of ‘foreignisation’ on performance and mise en scène? How is a ‘foreignising’ translation negotiated by theatre-makers in the rehearsal room? How do audiences respond to it?

Translation scholar Lawrence Venuti champions the translation strategy he calls ‘foreignisation’, as a as opposed to ‘domestication’, in that the former tries to limit the degree to which the unfamiliar is forcibly turned into the familiar, silencing cultural difference. Despite the recent academic interest in ‘foreignisation’, theatre studies still lack a debate on what a ‘foreignising’ approach to stage translation would mean for text and performance, and whether theatre – as opposed to literature – requires a distinctive approach. The question of how current theatre training and ideological beliefs influence translation practices in British theatres is also underexplored, and so is the notion of a ‘foreignising’ approach to adaptation. Meanwhile, the theatre industry tends to take ‘domestication’ for granted in an attempt to appeal to the widest possible audience, dismissing ‘foreignisation’ as a clumsier, riskier, yet untested alternative.

The Fellow and her collaborators will select three plays for translation by playwrights based in Europe and writing in Polish, Spanish and French – representing three of the most spoken European migrant languages in the UK – and organise practice-as-research workshops with professional performers and creative collaborators, led by scholar-translators, to test ‘foreignising’ strategies. The Fellow and her Research Associate will carry out qualitative research during and after the creative process with performers and audiences.

Each workshop will present their outcome to the public in the form of rehearsed readings at the Gate Theatre in London in May and June 2016. Each performance will be followed by a post-show debate. Taking place in the run-up to the in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU during what will be one of the most crucial political debates of recent times, the Fellow aims to widen the reach the project by working with our consultants, Firehouse Creative Productions, to develop one of the plays into full production for the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017. ​



Summer Rehearsed Readings Programme at The Gate Theatre, Notting Hill

All events are free and take place at The Gate Theatre, 11 Pembridge Road, London W11 3HQ

Closest underground station: Notting Hill


24th June 2016, 2 PM

Ternura negra. La pasión de María Estuardo by Denise Despeyroux

Translated from Spanish by Simon Breden

Directed by Tara Robinson

Post-show discussion hosted by Catherine Love

Book tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ternura-negra-tickets-25428440149


A theatre director is obsessed with the idea of Mary Stuart: he is living in a freezing tent near Tutbury Castle, where the Queen of Scots spent most of her imprisonment. Between one and another attempt to summon her ghost, he directs two actors via Skype, as they rehearse in a dilapidated, leaky attic. The whole affair is rather impractical and slightly ridiculous, but things are about to get even odder: the strangest things can happen during a Skype séance…

Denise Despeyroux is an Uruguayan, Spain-based playwright and director. She has a degree in philosophy, and trained in the theatre with authors such as Javier Daulte, José Sanchis Sinisterra and Rafael Spregelburd. Her plays have been shown in many theatres in Spain and internationally; in 2005 she won the prestigious Premio de Teatro Federico García Lorca with her piece Terapia, and in 2010 her play La Muerte es lo de Menos won the prize for best performance at the 15th Mostra de Teatre in Barcelona. Ternura Negra was first shown in Madrid in 2015, as part of the festival Surge Madrid.




1st July 2016, 2 PM

Les Serpents by Marie Ndiaye

Translated from French by Kélina Gotman

Directed by Daniel Goldman

Embedded critic: Diana Damian Martin

Post-show discussion hosted by Bojana Jankovic

Book tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/les-serpents-tickets-25428592605

Three women: Mrs Diss, France and Nancy. A mother-in-law, two daughters-in-law, one visiting from town. She has come to pay respects to her dead son, a boy named Jacky. A man, ensconced inside a house, in the cornfield, not willing to come out or to let his mother in. It is the 14th of July, dry, hot, but no one is there to enjoy the fireworks. Mrs Diss wants to borrow money. In this cold, dark and deceptively simple play, relationships are played out and transformed, narratives woven, emotions manipulated, roles exchanged. Who are these women? What force – what deity – draws them to this house? What or who is the snake?

Marie NDiaye is a novelist, essayist and playwright born in Pithiviers, France, to a French mother and a Senegalese father. An active writer since her childhood, she published her first novel, Quant au riche avenir, at the age of 17. Rosie Carpe (2001) won the Prix Femina, her Papa Doit Manger is the only play by a living woman in the repertoire of the Comédie Française, and her novel Trois femmes puissantes won the 2009 Prix Goncourt. In 2015, she won the Nelly Sachs Prize, which honours authors for outstanding literary contributions to the promotion of understanding between peoples. Her latest novel was nominated for the 2016 International Man Booker Prize. Les Serpents was published by Les Éditions de Minuit in 2004, and premiered in a mise en scène by Georges Guerreiro in 2005.




8th July 2016, 2 PM

Hamlet Gliwicki by Piotr Lachmann

Translated from Polish by Aneta Mancewicz and Bryce Lease

Directed by Arne Pohlmeier

Post-show discussion hosted by Bojana Jankovic

Book tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hamlet-gliwicki-tickets-25428633728


​Lachmann’s adaptation of Hamlet is an extended dream-like meditation which incorporates fragments from Shakespeare’s text alongside texts by Lachmann himself, Helmut Kajzar and Tadeusz Różewicz. HE tries to remember and assess his past in a dialogue with his mother, SHE whom he blames for his forced change of identity and his unhappy childhood. Over the course of the text, HE tries to communicate with the ghosts of his past: the ghost of his father, of his mother and of the trauma of WWII and its effects on his fluctuating identity, as a German, Pole and Silesian.

Piotr Lachmann is a Polish-German writer and director of video-theatre and film. Born in 1935 in Gleiwitz, Germany (present day Gliwice, Poland), the central theme of his work has consistently been memory and trauma, seen through the prism of his own personal and political experience. Published since the 1960s as a poet, essayist, author of radio plays and translator, in 1985 with actress Jolanta Lothe he founded in Warsaw the Lothe Lachmann Videoteatr Poza (‘Videotheatre Beyond’), Poland’s first experimental laboratory for intermedial theatre. Hamlet gliwicki was first staged by Videoteatr Poza in Gliwice and Warsaw in 2006.



Translating Theatre Symposium

Europe House, London, 21st October 2016

Keynote and participants TBC