Brexit Stage Left

Ten Myths about the Translation of Drama and the Drama of Translation

In this paper, I want to consider some popular and unpopular myths about translating for the stage and my response to them which arises out of my own work in this area over the past 15 years or so. In doing so, I will offer provocative alternatives to the following:


1. There are bad translations.

2. There is a little public interest in foreign plays.

3. The text is usually the major component of a translated work for the stage.

4. Working with living playwrights is no different from translating the dead.

5. Anyone can translate

6. Translation has nothing to do with politics

7. There are good translations.

8. Brexit will make things worse for European theatre translators.

9. Translators are fine as they are, they just need to be left alone.

10. The future for literary translation is bleak.


The focus of the paper will be on European translation in particular but its scope will also include matters further afield. Ultimately, the paper will attempt to describe what a greater visibility of the work of theatre translation might look like in real terms and what the challenges of the current social and political landscape might be in relation to this.

Mark O’Thomas