Happy New Year!  December with [Foreign Affairs] at the British Library; January with a new Spanish project and one of Chile’s leading contemporary playwrights

I spent my New Year’s Eve curled up with Tony Kushner’s masterpiece Angels in America, in honour of my theatre highlight of 2017 (and possibly ever), the production of this truly great play at the National Theatre here in London.  I can’t think of a better message to start a new year with:  ‘More life!’

I look forward to new projects for 2018 but first a quick round-up of the end of 2017.

Early in the month I joined Trine Garrett of [Foreign Affairs] to deliver a theatre and translation workshop for the winners of the German Academic Exchange Service’s annual creative writing in German competition in association with the Institute of Modern Languages Research.  We were hugely impressed by the standard from the winners in all three characters:  secondary school, undergraduate, and other.  The winners had all been set the task of writing dialogues between Martin Luther and a 21st-Century person of note, so we enjoyed conversations between this leading figure of the Reformation and JK Rowling, Vivienne Westwood, Jacob Ree-Mogg and even Donald Trump (via Twitter, of course).  We worked with the winners and two German actors to stage the dialogues, before working on a translation from German into English, imagining the thoughts of Luther’s long-suffering wife.

Also in December we opened the submission window for the Arcola queer collective’s Global Queer Plays project.  In March we will present four rehearsed readings of LGBT+ plays from around the world.  I am so delighted to be co-curating this initiative and we are thrilled to have received close to 100 submissions to select from (the window is now closed for this year).  The project is an opportunity to showcase voices and stories that might not otherwise be heard on the London stage and brings together the worlds of theatre, translation and LGBT+ culture in what we hope will be an exciting forum for sharing and discussion.

Looking forward to January and I am so happy to be translating a new play by Spanish playwright Julio Escalada.  Julio is the author of the first play I ever translated, and thanks to support from Spain’s Ministry of Culture I will be translating his new work, On the Edge, for publication later in 2018.  Set in one of Spain’s little-known North African enclaves, On the Edge follows the inhabitants of this multi-ethnic and marginalised bordertown where corruption, the fight for economic survival and a feeling of neglect from both Madrid and Brussels lead to a dog-eat-dog struggle to stay on top.  It recently ran at Madrid’s Umbral de Primavera theatre and will be returning in 2018.

Also in January I will be working once again with one of Chile’s most exciting contemporary playwrights, Bosco Cayo, whose brilliant Negra, the General’s Nurse I translated for the Royal Court in 2013.

Bosco’s recent play The Lady of the Andes won Chile’s national literature award in 2017 and as a continuation of my collaboration with the British Council I will be translating it.  In Bosco’s typical dark-comic style, the play delves into the painful atrocities of the Pinochet regime as seen through the lives of the aging volunteers at a rural hospital.  As the lead volunteer herself falls prey to dementia, the remaining members of this dwindling band of well-meaning ladies discover some horrific truths about the past actions of one of their number.

Also for Bosco I am supplying the English subtitles for the Santiago run of Dylan at the forthcoming Santiago a Mil international theatre festival.  Dylan is a powerful and vital study of a brutal transphobic attack in one of Chile’s central provinces.  Just as Chile moves towards equal marriage, better LGBT+ visibility and greater minority rights, a mother in a town not far from the nation’s capital finds it impossible to win justice for the horrific murder of her beloved child.  Speakers of Spanish can see a video of the production here.

There will I’m sure be yet more to come this year, not least from [Foreign Affairs], whose theatre translation showcase takes place on January 19 and 20, and from Out of the Wings, who celebrate a 10-year anniversary this year.  But for now, a Happy New Year to everyone.  More theatre, more translation, more life!


November: global LGBTQ plays at the Arcola; more from [Foreign Affairs]; a Royal Court publication; theatre at the Argentine Embassy; Chilean dance at Sadlers Wells, and a theatre trip to Spain

Another month has fairly flown by!

I must start this post with exciting news about a project I am co-curating at the Arcola Theatre.  For March 2018, the Arcola Queer Collective is planning a short festival of international LGBTQ play readings.  For this, we have put out an open call to translators and writers to help us find plays that tell stories of queer lives from throughout the world and throughout history.  Plays can be translated from any language, from any country, from any period of history, and the submission window is open until December 25.

With B ending its run at the Royal Court I took the chance to take two theatre trips to Spain (more below), but managed to squeeze in a fair bit in between flights.

On the publication front, I’m delighted to feature as a translator in this newly published anthology of contemporary Mexican plays, published by Paso de Gato in assocation with the Anglo-Mexican Foundation and the Royal Court Theatre.  My translations of Beat by Bárbara Colio and A Choir of Orphaned Children by Mariana Hartasánchez feature alongside work by Alberto Villarreal, translated by Simon Scardifield.  The publication is the culmination of a two-year playwriting workshop run in Mexico City by the Royal Court as part of its ongoing commitment to developing the work of international writers.

This month I have continued to work closely with international theatre company [Foreign Affairs].  On their theatre translation programme I have enjoyed both delivering and participating in workshops aimed at bringing translators and theatre-makers closer together.  These have included more text-based workshops but also, pictured below, sessions exploring how a translator’s words can become sound, rhythm, image and movement. There will be a showcase of work by the three participating translators – working from Chinese, Finnish and Japanese – in January.

[Foreign Affairs] translation workshop. Image (c) Luca Migliore

Also for [Foreign Affairs], I enjoyed being part of a post-show discussion on the subject of theatre translation following their production of The Unburied, a Romanian play that arose from the company’s 2016 programme.

On November 9th, Latin American Voices reprised their production of Pig Woman by the Argentine playwright Santiago Loza.  This powerful monologue on the trials of faith and survival lived out by Loza’s female protagonist was staged this time at the Argentine Embassy in London.  We followed the reading with a panel discussion, expertly chaired by Professor Maria Delgado of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

At the Argentine Embassy, 09 November 2017

Also this month I translated the programme notes for Ellipsis Land, a contemporary dance piece by Chileans Pepa Ubera and Josefina Camus, performed at Sadlers Wells.

Finally, I must mention my two theatre trips to Spain.  In Valencia I saw Cuzco, the fantastic play I had the pleasure of translating for Out of the Wings 2017, and which I hope will soon have more of a future in English.  At home in Valencia, directed by the author Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez, it stunned with its visceral power.

Then in Madrid I caught up with Abel González Melo, author of Weathered and Chamaco, which were produced at HOME MCR in 2016 and, in the case of Weathered, as a reading at the Southwark Playhouse in 2017…

…before catching up one day later with Julio Escalada.  Julio has a special place in my heart because his Springtime was the first play I ever translated.  My trip to Madrid was mainly to see his new play, On the Edge, which I will be translating very soon.  A tense thriller set in one of Spain’s little-known African enclaves, the play opens our eyes to a side of Spain – and of Europe – that we very rarely see.  I’m looking forward to being able to share the English version.

October 2017:  round-up of a busy few weeks

It’s amazing to see that in my last post rehearsals for Guillermo Calderón’s B had barely begun at the Royal Court, and to suddenly realise we are almost through with the run, which ends on October 21.  It’s been a real pleasure to work again with this fantastic and unique Chilean playwright, and with such a talented team at one of the English-speaking world’s finest theatres, and certainly one which champions international playwriting and translation more than any other I know.

An added pleasure is that the translation has also now been published, by Oberon Books.

B will be followed up by world premieres of plays from Syria and Ukraine in this Royal Court season, and below you can read a fascinating article by Royal Court International Director Elyse Dodgson on the long-term processes and commitments that have led to these three plays reaching the London stage.

While B has been running in Sloane Square, over in East and South London the CASA Festival of Latin American theatre has also been sharing international plays with London audiences at the Arcola and Southwark Playhouse theatres, and I have been delighted to be involved as both a translator and an actor in three of the festival’s play readings.

On September 30 at the Arcola, new company Latin American Voices presented my translation of Pig Woman by leading Argentine playwright Santiago Loza.  This powerful monologue follows one woman’s quest to acheive sainthood, even at the greatest of costs to both her body and her mind.  The performance, by Phoebe Batteson-Brown and directed by Ali Wright, will be reprised at the Argentine Embassy in London on November 9.

One week later at the Southwark Playhouse I performed in Sophie Stevens’ translation of Dancing Alone Every Night by Raquel Diana.  This Uruguayan play is based on the true-life events of the discovery of Joyce Vincent, a Londoner found dead in her Wood Green flat in 2006 two years after she had died.  In this reimagining, Diana explores the two-year period between death and discovery, taking in themes of urban loneliness, domestic abuse, and the fate of all those who die but have not yet been discovered.

And on October 7th, Cat Robey directed Weathered, a Cuban play by Abel González Melo commissioned in 2016 by HOME MCR.  Originaly performed in Manchester as part of HOME’s Viva! festival, we were thrilled to reprise this drama of Cuban family life across two generations and are excited to see where this powerful piece by one of Cuba’s most successful playwrights will go next.

And as if all this weren’t enough, October 2nd marked International Translation Day at the British Library.  I have attended this event on several occasions and this year found the whole day inspiring, with discussions ranging from issues of translating gender and sexuality to the role of translation in our multicultural communities and in our schools.

My personal highlight though was sharing the stage with Trine Garrett and a company of actors from international theatre company [Foreign Affairs] to run the plenary session, culminating in a mass translation session that saw over 100 translators all translating extracts from plays from multiple languages, to be performed by the actors and, unbeknownst to them, by the translators themselves.  This was an important moment for me:  it was a joy to see theatre so firmly embraced into the translation fold, and more joyous still to see so many translators who had perhaps never tried theatre before seeing that it is something that they could, and should try.

Also this month I took delivery of my contributor’s copy of Adapting Translation for the Stage, a new anthology published by Routledge, taking in themes of theatre transltion in all its forms.  It was fascinating to read the contributions from the other writers, and to have this book as a reminder of working in 2013 with Camila Le-Bert, David Arancibia, Claudia Hidalgo and Bosco Cayo on the Royal Court’s New Plays from Chile week.  (You can see a full list of my published work here.)

I continue to edit the Translation section of The Theatre Times, and much recommend this article by actor-translator Lucy Phelps.  When not working at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Lucy translates from French, and earlier this year translated The Pulverised at the Arcola Theatre and York Theatre Royal.

And last but not least, I am so excited to see that Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez’s Cuzco has opened in Valencia, and am very much looking forward to seeing it later this month.  This play was for me the greatest discovery from my trip to Madrid last year and I am proud to have translated it for Out of the Wings earlier this year.  This is a writer to watch and I can’t wait to see what he does next!

September 2017:  forthcoming at the Arcola, the Southwark Playhouse, the British Library…  and B at the Royal Court draws closer

Rehearsals for the world premiere of Guillermo Calderón’s B are well under way at the Royal Court.  I have been in rehearsals to watch the production taking shape under Sam Pritchard’s expert direction, and the first previews begin on September 28.  You can see some rehearsal images below, and book your tickets here.

Before that, however, I’m delighted to be working with the new company Latin American Voices on a UK premiere reading of Pig Woman by Santiago Loza, one of Argentina’s leading contemporary writers.  This one-woman tale of a harrowing search for spiritual perfection will be performed as a rehearsed reading at the Arcola Theatre on Saturday, September 23rd at 13:00.  The reading is free to attend.

On October 7 my translation of Weathered will have its second rehearsed reading in the UK.  This contemporary Cuban family drama by Abel González Melo was originally commissioned by HOME MCR for their Viva! festival in 2016, alongside a produciton of Abel’s nocturnal thriller Chamaco.  As at HOME, Cat Robey directs this reading, which will take place at the Southwark Playhouse at 13:30.  Like Pig Woman, this reading is also free to attend.

And finally for now, I am really delighted to be co-presenting the plenary event at this year’s International Translation Day at the British Library, on October 2nd.  I will be sharing the stage with the London-based international theatre company [Foreign Affairs] to talk about theatre translation, about the company’s innovative theatre translators’ programme, and to lead our audience in a mass theatre translation activity.  This year’s ITD promises to be very eclectic and inspiring and I look forward to rounding the day off with little drama!  We’ve already been hard at work getting things ready.

September 2017:  Goya closes in Sydney and B opens in London

Just like the British summer, the Sydney run of Rodrigo García’s I’d Rather Goya Robbed Me of My Sleep… has flown by, closing on Saturday at the Old 505 Theatre in Newtown.  Produced by Théâtre Excentrique and directed by Anna Jahjah, this acerbic Argentine monologue was performed by Gerry Sont.  A clip of Gerry’s energetic delivery can be seen below.

Meanwhile in London, rehearsals have begun for the Royal Court Theatre’s world-premiere production of B by the acclaimed Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón, which opens at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs on September 28.  Having worked previously with Guillermo on Villa and Discurso, it is a real thrill to be collaborating with him again.  The casting will be announced publicly soon but in the meantime you can find more information about the play at the Royal Court website.  Sam Pritchard directs.

August 2017:  Royal Court’s New and Now play readings on the BBC

I was away on holiday for the first half of August (and resisting the temptation to post holiday snaps here!), so sadly was unable to attend the Royal Court’s New and Now series of international play readings, curated by Elyse Dodgson and Sam Pritchard for the Edinburgh International Festival.  Two of these plays were pieces I have translated:  from Chile, Guillermo Calderón’s Discurso, and from Cuba, shared with an audience for the very first time, Laura Liz Gil Echenique’s Drainage Alley.

Luckily, clips from the readings have been made available on the BBC.  In this extract from Discurso, directed by the author, the wonderful Kika Markham plays Chilean president Michele Bachelet.  In this excerpt from Calderón’s reimagined farewell speech, the president laments the impossibility of transformative change and rails against the venom of the Right.

Days previously, John Tiffany directed Drainage Alley.  In this clip from Laura Liz Gil Echenique’s moving tribute to the stoic inhabitants of a lane on the outskirts of Havana, the neighbours find a crucial water pipe burst and despair at the chances of getting it fixed any time soon.

July 2017:  news of Goya‘s Australian première, and further updates on the Royal Court at the Edinburgh Festival

The summer is in full swing but in Australia the winter is about to be hit by a dose of Rodrigo García and his I’d Rather Goya Robbed Me of My Sleep than some Other Son of a Bitch.  This is an exciting Australian debut for me as a translator, as this high-octane monologue contemplating capitalism, parenthood, philosophy and dependency, opens at Old 505 Theatre in Newtown, Sydney, on August 22.  Théâtre Excentrique produce the play, following productions in English at the Gate Theatre Notting Hill and at the Boom Arts Festival in Portland, Oregon.

Meanwhile, preparations for the Edinburgh International Festival continue, with the Royal Court announcing their full programme of international plays to be showcased as part of their ‘New and Now’ season of play readings.  I have two translations in the mix, Laura Liz Gil Echenique’s Drainage Alley and Guillermo Calderón’s Speech.

These are two out of the six plays from around the world being read as part of the EIF’s ‘Spirit of 47’ season.  From Ukraine, Sasha Dugdale translates Natal’ya Vorozhbit’s Bad Roads; Katherine Halls translates Maya Zbib’s Galia’s Miles, from Lebanon; Zhu Yi self-translates You Never Touched the Dirt, from China, and from Palestine, Dalia Taha writes There is No One between You and Me.

July 2017:  Blanca Doménech’s The Sickness of Stone featured in Asymptote’s summer issue

Just over one year after our first week of play readings with Out of the Wings, and the Spanish play I translated and directed for that season, Blanca Doménech’s The Sickness of Stone, has been published in extracts in the well-known literary translation journal, Asymptote.  This contemporary piece about the physical and psychological legacy of the Franco dictatorship is one of two play selected from Asymptote‘s summer issue.  The Sickness of Stone was premièred at Out of the Wings, before going on to be performed in readings in Madrid and New York, and published in Spanish in Mexico and Argentina.  This is the first time that it has been made available to readers in English.

July 2017:  Out of the Wings play readings, a publication, and an exciting Royal Court announcement

The dust is settling after a wonderful week at London’s Cervantes Theatre, where along with colleagues from Out of the Wings we shared rehearsed readings of five plays from Latin America, Portugal and Spain.  This was the second annual Out of the Wings festival of readings and the 2017 event was a great success, building on the work of 2016 and taking us to new audiences.

On Wednesday July 12 I directed my own translation of Cuzco, a world première by one of Spain’s most exciting emerging playwrights, Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez.  This two-hander, which will have its home première in Valencia in October, sends a Spanish couple to Peru in a bid to rescue their relationship, only for history, jetlag and the reality of their daily lives to conspire against them.  Richard Glaves and Denise Hoey (who also performed in The Sickness of Stone in 2016) performed the roles of the couple, and Gigi Guizado narrated.

A translator herself, Las Vegas-based actor Gigi Guizado was in London for the festival primarily for the reading of Symphony for Six Actors, four C20th radio plays written by her Colombian grandfather Rafael Guizado.  I was delighted to join the cast of Symphony for what was the final reading in our week of plays.  We were also joined by Richard, fresh from Cuzco (pictured below with me and Lanna Joffrey in rehearsals).

The other plays in the readings were The Real Mother of Marilyn Monroe by Armando Nascimento Rosa (Portugal), translated by Susannah Finzi; Double Panic by Virgilio Piñera (Cuba), translated by Kate Eaton, and Ready or Not by Estela Golovchenko, translated by Sophie Stevens.

Out of the Wings goes from strength to strength and there will be more to come from our collective as 2017 progresses.  In the meantime you can read more about the project in this article written by our founder, Catherine Boyle.

It’s also a good moment to remember that one year ago we shared Blanca Doménech’s The Sickness of Stone.  The play, which tackles the still-burning issue of Franco’s legacy, went on to be performed in Madrid and New York, and published in Mexico and Argentina.  (And there is more to come soon from this play…)

Last week also saw the release of Adapting Translation for the Stage, a volume published by Routledge and edited by Emma Cole and Geraldine Brodie.  The volume contains a fascinating selection of chapters covering the experiences of theatre translation across all periods and genres, and includes my chapter on translating three plays for the Royal Court Theatre’s New Plays from Chile season:  Camila Le-Bert’s Chan!, Bosco Israel Cayo Álvarez’s Negra, the General’s Nurse, and David Arancibia Urzúa’s Ñuke.

And finally last week, it was exciting to see Guillermo Calderón’s B re-announced by the Royal Court Theatre as part of the forthcoming 2017/18 season.  Particularly thrilling is to see so many international plays and plays in translation in the line-up, including plays from Ukraine, Syria and Argentina.  Once again the Royal Court is setting an example to other spaces about how to engage audiences in international work with bold, outward-looking programming.

June 2017: Edinburgh International Festival, Royal Court, [Foreign Affairs], Dark Habits and Out of the Wings…

There were a flurry of updates and announcements earlier this month so here’s a summary.

I’m delighted to be among the likes of fellow translators Sasha Dugdale and Kathernine Halls working on a series of rehearsed readings of plays from around the world to be staged at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival (EIF).  Spirit of ’47 celebrates the EIF’s collaboration with the British Council in showcasing exciting international theatre and features work from Ukraine, China and Syria.

Two plays from Cuba and Chile will feature in my English translation, both created as part of the Royal Court Theatre’s long commitment to international work.

From Cuba, Laura Liz Gil Echenique’s Drainage Alley is a moving and intimate portrait of life in a forgotten street on the outskirts of Havana, where one woman strives against all the odds to stand firm in the belief that a better life awaits.  John Tiffany directs.

From Chile, leading playwright Guillermo Calderón (writer of B, forthcoming at the Royal Court) directs his own Discurso (Speech), a fictionalised imagining of a farewell speech by President Michele Bachelet.  Originally written during the Royal Court International Residency, Discurso was staged in Belfast in 2014 by Prime Cut Productions.  For the EIF, Guillermo is working on an updated version to reflect Bachelet’s second term in office.  Kika Markham, who played Bachelet for the original Royal Court reading, returns.

Meanwhile, in Manchester, the publication of Dark Habits will be marked later this week with an official launch on June 23 at HOME.  The anthology, commissioned to accompany HOME’s exhibition on La Movida, Madrid’s 1980s cultural awakening, features my translation of My Own Private Movida, a nostalgic essay by Spanish artist and writer Mercedes Cebrián.

I won’t be in Manchester for the launch, but that same night I will be joining international theatre company [Foreign Affairs] for an evening of discussion on the theme of ‘World Theatre in Brexit Britain’.  The event is free and we are looking forward to welcoming our audience to join in the debate.

And last but most certainly not least, the Ibero-American theatre collective Out of the Wings (OOTW) have announced our second annual week of play readings.  From July 10 to 14 at the Cervantes Theatre in London, we will present five new translations of plays from five countries: Portugal, Cuba, Spain, Uruguay and Colombia.  After having such a great experience last year with Blanca Doménech’s The Sickness of Stone, I am thrilled to be translating and directing Cuzco, a brilliant new Spanish play by award-winning writer Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez.  We have a fantastic cast and are hoping Víctor will be able to come to London for the event.  More news on this and on the other OOTW plays in the coming days.

June 2017: more dates and another national premiere for Mar Gómez Glez’s Numbers

June sees the return of this timely play about the Mediterranean refugee crisis.  Munich-based Entity Theatre have already performed Numbers at their home theatre, but this month they tour to Frankfurt and Salzburg.

On June 6, Entity takes part in the English-language festival FEATS in Frankfurt, before heading to Salzburg’s mini English Drama Festival on June 10 for the play’s Austrian premiere.

For this well-travelled piece which started life in London at the Royal Court International Residency, Austria is the latest stop on a tour that has so far included LA, Washington DC, New York, New Jersey, Mumbai and Munich.

June 2017: Dark Habits finally published!

I really enjoyed translating Spanish artist Mercedes Cebrián‘s nostalgic essay on life in a convent school in 1980s Madrid for this anthology of artist responses to La Movida, the counter-cultural reawakening that took place in the Spanish capital in the early years of post-Franco democracy.  The book accompanies an exhibition on La Movida at HOME MCR, where last year I translated a new play from Cuba for their annual VIVA! festival.

We were all surprised when one printer refused to print the book on the grounds of alleged obscenity! Now the book has finally been released, you can decide for yourself.

May 2017: British Academy Late

On May 19 we had a great evening with attendees at the British Academy Late ‘Off The Page’ event, playing with Shakespearean (and C17th Mexican) insults and ways of translating them.

I co-ran this workshop with Professor Catherine Boyle of King’s College London and Out of the Wings.  Entitled ‘Rehearsing the Translated Play’ and with the help of actors Richard Glaves and Kate Eaton, we worked with the audience to find imaginative ways of re-wording plays in translation.

May 2017:  The Pulverised at the Arcola

On May 16 I was thrilled to chair a post-show discussion on ‘Translated Theatre in the Globalised World’ following a performance of Alexandra Badea’s The Pulverised at the Arcola Theatre.  We were joined virtually by Lucy Phelps who translated the play, along with its director Andy Sava, academic and translator Sarah Maitland and director Jude Christian (who I worked with on Goya at the Gate in 2014).  Lucy was busy performing at the RSC but was able to make this video for the post-show in record time.

May 2017: The Translator Made Corporeal at the British Library.

At the BL this week I found myself on display along with many other fellow translators at this conference exploring the role and person of the translator throughout history.

April 2017: Numbers in Munich

After readings or productions in London, Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York, New Jersey and Mumbai, Mar Gómez Glez’s Numbers, originally written and translated for the Royal Court Theatre’s international residency, took another step on a seemingly global tour, care of Munich’s English-language Entity Theatre.  The run in Munich is in advance of another appearance in Germany this year, at the FEATS festival in June, and then in Salzburg.

April 2017: AHGBI Conference, Cardiff

It was a real honour to speak alongside academics and fellow translators Sophie Stevens, Sarah Maitland and Katie Brown at this year’s annual Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland Conference at Cardiff University.  Our panel on ‘Translation and the Trials of Advocacy’ explored the role of the translator in the translation of artistic works and also our role in sharing these translations with the rest of the world.  In my talk I expanded on some of my ideas from ‘The Strangeness of the Theatre Translator‘ which I wrote for Words Without Borders last year.

March 2017: Villa in New York

Following a reading at the Royal Court and a production in Belfast care of Prime Cut Theatre, my translation of Villa, written and directed by leading Chilean playwright and screenwriter Guillermo Calderón (B at the Royal CourtNeruda) ran for the month of March at The Wild Project, New York, produced by The Play Company.  This powerful exploration of the legacy of dictatorship and national trauma garnered great reviews in the US and further consolidates Guillermo’s status as one of Chile’s most important and exciting writers today.

March 2017: King’s College London

I was honoured this month to be appointed formally as a Visiting Research Associate at King’s College London.  I will be working alongside the Spanish and Latin American Studies department on a project-by-project basis in the coming years, working mainly with Out of the Wings and with the Language Acts and Worldmaking research programme.

February 2017: Dates confirmed for B at the Royal Court

The dates have been finalised and tickets released for B by Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón.  This will be a world premiere in any language of Guillermo’s latest play, opening at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre in September.  I’ve worked as a translator with Guillermo on a number of previous occasions and it’s a privilege to be doing it again.

February 2017: A Basque History

I’m delighted to have been selected by the Fundación SGAE in Spain to translate Los Gondra, a fantastic family saga by on of Spain’s leading playwrights, Borja Ortiz de Gondra.  This powerful story, spanning four generations and over one hundred years of history, explores the impact of war, national identity and history on family life and exposes the limitations of family loyalty and love, while delighting in the proud traditions of the Basque people as seen through their language, music, landscape and, crucially, great sporting tradition.

January 2o17: Myths of New York by Vanessa Montfort

I have been working with Spanish playwright Vanessa Montfort even since she wrote Flashback for the Royal Court International Residency.  Also a successful novelist, her Manhattan noir Myths of New York is the second of her four prize-winning novels to date, taking us on a murderous tour of a New York composed of comics, books and movies.  In this extract published by Drunken Boat, the hero Dan Rogers drives to Long Island for Thanksgiving, briefly escaping the gruesome realities of the case he is working on.  But he is unable to flee the paranoias of his own mind.

January 2017: Chilean plays for the British Council

It’s great to start the year with a new project!  Throughout 2017 I will be translating a series of plays by modern dramatists from Chile, including such revered names as Egon Wolff and Juan Radrigán.  The first of these is Radrigán’s The Desolate Prince, a powerful reimagining of the Lucifer and Lilith Myth, exploring themes of theocracy, dogma, and the realities of life under state terror.  See a video of extracts from the original play here:

The 2016 Playwrights and Translators Meeting, Madrid

In November 2016 I was invited by the Sociedad General de Autores de España (SGAE, the Spanish writers guild), the Asociación de Autores de Teatro (AAT, the Spanish playwrights association), and Acción Cultural de España (ACE, the Spanish arts and culture funding body) to the ‘Encuentro de dramaturgos con traductores’.  This annual and almost unique event invites a small number of translators from around the world to share their experiences of the role of Spanish theatre in their own countries, and crucially, to meet a number of contemporary Spanish playwrights one to one.  The hope, of course, is that these meetings will result in more Spanish plays being translated and staged or published throughout the world.

This was my second attendance at the event and, alongside translation colleagues from Romania, Hungary, Italy, Germany and France, I met with 12 playwrights from across the spectrum of Spanish theatre-making.

I would love, of course, to translate all of them, and I certainly hope to translate some of their work, but I am but one translator.  Luckily, though, I know I am not the only Spanish-to-English theatre translator, so I hope some of my colleagues in the UK, the US or beyond may read the following short summaries with interest and be moved to contact some of the authors and read their plays.

The playwrights are presented in the order in which I met them, (which amounts to no particular order).  I was only able to read one of each of their plays in preparation for the event:  there are many more where these came from.  Where they have an entry, I have placed a link through to Contexto Teatral, an excellent, curated new web initiative designed to give a platform to emerging Spanish playwrights, which I suggest colleagues visit.  This is a great complimentary resource to the Spanish Association of Playwrights play and writer directory which also has an entry for each of its members.

Pilar Almansa trained in London and has worked already in the London theatre scene.  Her play NEOCRACY (NEOCRACIA) imagines a not-too-distant future where social media has been integrated into the mechanisms of the state and terrorism moves from the streets to all-powerful data centres.  Set in Frankfurt, Tokyo and Berlin, the play explores our continuing and increasing attachment to social media and its implications for our political, personal and sexual lives in an increasingly globalised world.  See also Pilar’s website.

Jesús Campos is a veteran of Spanish playwrighting with a long and successful trajectory dating back decades and widely produced.  His recent play AND THE HOUSE GREW (Y LA CASA CRECÍA) sees a young couple accept an offer they can’t refuse – an opulent, palatial home at a peppercorn rent – only for the house literally to grow so large as to be out of control.  Nevertheless, the cheap rent in today’s climate is too much of a pull for them to leave, even when things turn nasty with the landlady’s businessman son.

Madrid-based Argentine playwright and director Heidi Steinhardt contemplates the complexities of family in her play THE INESTIMABLE BROTHER (EL INESTIMABLE HERMANO).  As two orphaned, adult siblings mourn the loss of their last living parent, the sister struggles to deal with a brutal realisation:  that she would rather not have a brother at all.  A darkly comic two-hander, the play tackles oft-avoided taboos such as the obligation of family and feasibility of unconditional love borne of duty.

Laura Rubio Galletero tackles no less pressing subjects such as suicide and the still-unequal treatment of women in THE GLASS CEILING (TECHO DE CRISTAL), imagining booze-fuelled conversations at the Ritz between Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.  When not tormenting the Ritz’s long-suffering waiter in New York, Sylvia is in London grappling with life as wife and spar to Ted Hughes.

Eclectic playwright Carlos Contreras documents the life of Romany boxer Johann Trollmann in 1920s Germany in RUKELI.  This real-life story charts the struggle for recognition of a sportsman at the top of his game but within a society that increasingly threatens him.

Juan García Larrondo’s long and well-established playwriting trajectory includes CELESTE FLORA, a compelling, convincing imagining of a psychiatrist’s attempts in the early Twentieth Century to analyse the perpetrator of an appalling series of child murders.

Andalusian playwright Gracia Morales explores coercion and the blurring line between public and private in EL CASO GARAY (THE GARAY CASE).  In an uncannily close future, a couple agrees to take part in a medical trial to increase their chances of conceiving, only for the husband to become addicted to the treatment despite – or perhaps because of – its side effects.  Morales also runs her own company, Remiendo Teatro, based in Granada.

Established playwright Alfonso Zurro’s recent play ALONE WITH MARYLIN (A SOLAS CON MARYLIN) takes the modern-day icon of Marylin Monroe as the inspiration for a free-flowing text exploring contemporary mythology.  Mixing the legend of Marylin with the classical tale of Medea, the play’s brutal ending follows a series of open-ended and intriguing vignettes.

Born in Uruguay but long established in Spain, Denise Despeyroux featured recently in a series of European plays at London’s Gate Theatre.  Her plays explore spirituality and the ghosts of both the living and the dead.  In the comedy THE DRAMATIC ORIGINS OF SPIRAL GALAXIES (LOS DRAMÁTICOS ORÍGENES DE LAS GALAXIAS ESPIRALES), an identical twin is forced to imitate her sister in front of her unsuspecting family, only to find out by doing so what her mother and aunt really think of her.

Juan Luis Mira is a veteran playwright whose eclectic output includes MAKING-UP CORPSES (MAQUILLANDO CADÁVARES), in which Michelangelo is hired to beautify the body of the recently deceased Pope.  In this claustrophobic historical reimagining, the writer contemplates the meaning and possibility of artistic integrity faced with financial, political and physical compulsion.

Víctor Sánchez explores post-colonialism, globalisation, personal crisis and 21st-century angst in CUZCO.  On a long-awaited holiday in Peru, a couple finds that travelling to the other side of the world brings enlightenment, but not necessarily of the sort they hoped.  Trapped between the familiar and the other, a holiday intended to bring them closes risks doing just the opposite.

Juan Mairena’s recent move into playwriting was greeted with success with SOW (CERDA), a sometimes screwball comedy set in a convent of eccentric nuns.  Despite its sometimes outrageously comic tone, this play broaches the dark and difficult subject of stolen children and devastation of the mothers who were forced to part with them.

It was an honour and a pleasure to be invited by the SGAE, AAT and ACE to attend this event and I hope that this summary will play its part in helping to spread the word about Spanish playwriting.

I must also thank my fellow translators David Ferré, Fanziska Muche, Simone Trecca, Lazslo Scholz and Luminita Voina for their company, generosity and insight.

¡Hasta la próxima!