Empowering theatre professionals to advocate for translation in the arts
The interlocking projects of Judith Beniston and Geraldine Brodie have increased the visibility of translation as a widely practised and socially significant phenomenon within the UK theatre sector.
29 April 2022
Professor Geraldine Brodie and Dr Judith Beniston both undertake theatre-based research at UCL School of European Languages, Culture and Society, with Professor Brodie conducting theoretically informed studies of translation procedures in contemporary theatre and Dr Beniston taking German-language source texts and their socio-cultural contexts as her starting point.
In ‘The Translator on Stage’, Professor Brodie argues that the concept of translation in theatre should not be restricted to language expertise, but be expanded to include collaborating theatre practitioners. The book was nominated for the TaPRA Early Career Researcher Prize 2018. As co-investigator of the AHRC-funded ‘Digital Critical Edition of Selected Middle-Period works by Arthur Schnitzler (1862–1931)’ (2014–19), Dr Beniston contributed to the edition of the ‘Marionetten’ cycle and is lead editor for ‘Professor Bernhardi’.
Staging Schnitzler's work for UK audiences
Schnitzler’s ‘Professor Bernhardi’, last seen in the UK in 2005, is a very substantial work that offers the opportunity to create distinctively different performance texts.
Dr Beniston’s abridged English-language version foregrounds the play’s exploration of still ongoing debates around end-of-life care and the relationship between medicine, religion and politics.
A performance concept was developed in collaboration with Foreign Affairs, a London-based theatre company focusing on international cultural exchange. A key duologue was tried out at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club on 23/8/2014, as part of Foreign Affairs’ summer preview show, and ‘Professor Bernhardi’ was subsequently seen by c. 550 people in site-specific productions in London (Bart’s Hospital Pathology Museum, 23-25/9/2015), Cambridge (Anatomy Lecture Theatre, University of Cambridge, 28-29/10/2016) and Exeter (Barnfield Theatre, 29/6/2017).
In May 2018, Dr Beniston collaborated with the Austrian Cultural Forum, London to organise ‘Adapting Schnitzler’, which brought together theatremakers, academics and others to workshop a staging concept and translation brief for ‘Der tapfere Cassian (1904)’, a one-act puppet play that is part of the ‘Marionetten’ cycle.
Improving translation for the theatre industry
Professor Brodie’s Theatre Translation Forum (October 2013-March 2014) consisted of four seminars and four workshops addressing theatrical themes particularly relevant to staged translations.
The events attracted 140 participants, representing 16 languages in addition to English: actors, directors and translators came together with academics to explore and reflect on the use of translated texts in their working practices, a training experience especially valuable for early-career practitioners.
On 12 August 2019 ‘The Doctor. Very freely adapted from Arthur Schnitzler’s Professor Bernhardi’ by world-leading writer-director Robert Icke premiered at London’s Almeida Theatre, reaching a total audience of approximately 17,550 on its initial run.
Dr Beniston is one of the people thanked in the acknowledgements to the published playtext, for having ‘shared their expertise, and offered thoughts and notes on the script in its various drafts’ and contributed an essay to the theatre programme.
Theatre Translation at UCL: generating and supporting creative cultural transfer; and empowering theatre professionals to advocate for the importance of translation in the arts.
The interlocking projects of Judith Beniston and Geraldine Brodie have increased the visibility of translation as a widely practised and socially significant phenomenon within the UK theatre sector, both in systemic terms and by promoting English-language translations of a specific Austrian dramatist: Arthur Schnitzler (1862–1931).
- Dr Judith Beniston’s academic profile
- Professor Geraldine Brodie’s academic profile
- School of European Languages, Culture and Society
- The Translator on Stage book
- UCL Faculty of Arts & Humanities
- UCL Arts & Humanities REF 2021
- Image credit: iStock / aerogondo