Words and language at the Dublin Theatre Festival 2015

dublin-theatre-fest15-posterDublin Theatre Festival is over for another year, though they have already made the first announcement for next year’s festival – a production of Don Giovanni, translated by Roddy Doyle and directed by Pan Pan’s Gavin Quinn. I’m a little bit disappointed that Roddy Doyle, who writes such great dialogue (I love his Two Pints series on Facebook), is writing an opera. In my limited experience of opera, the words tend to get lost in the beautiful melodies and soaring arias. I didn’t get much out of the opera in this year’s festival – Enda Walsh’s The Last Hotel. Maybe I just don’t get on with opera.

Aside from that, I really enjoyed the festival. The two Chekhov plays – tg Stan’s The Cherry Orchard and Dead Centre’s Chekhov’s First Play – were both highlights for me and it was lovely to see Dancing at Lughnasa in the Gaiety. I’m also looking forward to seeing The Train this week, stretching out my festival experience a little longer.

I also enjoyed the post-show talks and the other discussions that happened as part of the festival. Last Thursday I went to Found in Translation, a fascinating discussion about the challenges of translation. The panellists was made up of two translators – Joanna Crawley and Christine Madden, and Eugene O’Neill, who’s play Eden has been translated into many different languages, including Dutch, Romanian and Catalan. They talked about how translating doesn’t mean just translating the words, you also have to translate into the culture of the new country. There’s also the added layer of different theatre conventions in different countries. Eugene O’Neill said some European countries had great difficulty with the idea that the cast stayed still and delivered their lines, a typical thing in Irish theatre, but a radical idea when their idea of theatre is full of movement and visual metaphors.

These are my three favourite things I took away from the talk:

  1. That the word “baluba”, meaning mad or drunk, was (is?) the name of a tribe in the Congo and came into Irish lexicon after a UN Peace Keeping mission in the 1960s. It was a new one on me, though Urban Dictionary knew about it. The full details of the conflict are here.
    It came up last Thursday because one of the characters in Eden talks about how he “got balubas last night” and O’Neill had to describe what this word meant to his Romanian translator.
  2. There is no German word for silly. This was from Christine Madden (who translates from German) and it came up when she was describing a talk she went to, given by a man who had translated PJ Woodhouse into German. He said that his way into the work was realising that what Woodhouse did was treat light subjects very seriously, and serious subjects very lightly. She felt it was the perfect definition of silly.
  3. And this article from Joanna Crawley about the first production of her translation of Amy Conroy’s I Alice I and how this very Irish play resonated with Polish audiences – Somewhere under the Rainbow
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