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Contemporary European Drama in Translation on the British Stage

Image: Nathaniel Shuman

Image: Nathaniel Shuman

It all started when Brazilian Camila França and Dane Trine Garrett met while studying the Meisner Technique under Scott Williams at the Impulse Company in London. Looking to create a space that would allow them to tackle the work they wanted to do regardless of their casting type or accents, they started [Foreign Affairs], a theatre company based in Hackney with a focus on theatre in translation and international cultural and artistic exchange.

The initial artistic partnership has since been expanded with the involvement of further international associates including theatre-makers, artists, translators and academics from the UK, Europe and beyond with a view to discover work not routinely seen in the UK. Set up to champion plays in translation, [Foreign Affairs] stages contemporary as well as classical works from around the globe with the aim of bringing great world drama to English-speaking audiences. Productions of new translations include The Blind One & The Mad One (2018) by Cláudia Barral, translated by Almiro Andrade; The Unburied.The Saint of Darkness (2017) by András Visky, translated by Jozefina Komporaly; Professor Bernhardi (2015-17) by Arthur Schnitzler, translated by Judith Beniston with Nicole Robertson and Helmer Hardcore – A Doll’s House II (2015) by Jakob Weis, translated by Paul Russell Garrett.

In response to the current UK theatre climate, with its complex barriers to the production of translated work, and the constantly changing attitudes to Europe in the run up to Brexit, in 2016 the company launched [Foreign Affairs] Translates!, a theatre translation mentorship programme. Born on the day of the Brexit Referendum, the programme is a forum intended to nurture a new generation of theatre translators by offering a rare opportunity to workshop translations with the company and showcase work in front of a public audience.

[Foreign Affairs] Translates! seeks to move away from the idea of translation as an exclusively intellectual and solitary endeavour, arguing for theatre translators to play an active part in the creative process of bringing a play from page to stage.Fostering a community of theatre makers with an eye for cultural difference, [Foreign Affairs] Translates! is mindful of producing a variety of work, both stylistically and in terms of cultural provenance. So far, the programme has brought to the company plays from countries relatively under-represented on the UK stage (including works from Croatia, Finland and Romania), has helped shaping the company’s work, and fostered an even broader and more diverse community of theatre practitioners around it.

Foreign Affairs