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7 July 2014 • by Geraldine Brodie

Translation: "Not a mysterious process."

The contribution of the translator to a production originating in another language is often overlooked. Lyn Gardner’s review of Idomeneus for the Guardian, however, singled out David Tushingham’s ‘exquisitely translated’ work on Roland Schimmmelpfennig’s German play.

It seemed that the audience agreed with her on Thursday evening, when many stayed behind after the show to listen to David discuss his translating practice with Geraldine Brodie of UCL’s Theatre Translation Forum. David insisted that translation is ‘not a mysterious process’, maintaining that he adopted the ‘really simple approach’ of looking at the German lines, thinking them through, and then trying to find the most accurate rendition in English. Asked whether he saw himself as a creative artist, David replied that it was better not to get too creative with the original - he never lost sight of the fact that it was Roland, and not himself, who was the writer of the play. When translating Idomeneus, David had focused on creating a text with powerful, resonant words that would have room to breathe and give the audience time to receive them.

The actors play the most important role in bringing Roland’s play to the audience, in David’s view. He particularly admired their development of the contours and thought processes of the script, and the way they made technical difficulties look effortless. Nevertheless, he sees the translator as part of the collaborative exploration that is theatre: the creative sharing of skills and knowledge.

Is translation a fulfilling act? Yes, says David, if you manage to create a text in English which reflects the spirit of the original, and which captures its theatrical gesture and intention. That’s a good feeling.
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It seemed that the audience agreed with her on Thursday evening, when many stayed behind after the show to listen to David discuss his translating practice with Geraldine Brodie of UCL’s Theatre Translation Forum. David insisted that translation is ‘not a mysterious process’, maintaining that he adopted the ‘really simple approach’ of looking at the German lines, thinking them through, and then trying to find the most accurate rendition in English. Asked whether he saw himself as a creative artist, David replied that it was better not to get too creative with the original - he never lost sight of the fact that it was Roland, and not himself, who was the writer of the play. When translating Idomeneus, David had focused on creating a text with powerful, resonant words that would have room to breathe and give the audience time to receive them.

The actors play the most important role in bringing Roland’s play to the audience, in David’s view. He particularly admired their development of the contours and thought processes of the script, and the way they made technical difficulties look effortless. Nevertheless, he sees the translator as part of the collaborative exploration that is theatre: the creative sharing of skills and knowledge.

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