In the simplest terms: how interested, as a nation, are we in what other people, nations and cultures have to say? […] In an increasingly shrinking world, do the neighbours of the global village really understand one another and what are the arts institutions doing to enhance that understanding?”  (Jack Bradley in Baines, et. al. 2011: 187)


“[Theatres] will lose credibility if they perpetuate indifference towards the cultural diversity issues and continue to evade the inclusion of other ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups on stage, behind the stage and in the auditorium.” (Dragan Klaic 2008: 227)



This practical workshop will introduce participants to LegalAliens’ work on the translation and English-language premiere of Sergio Pierattini’s The Return (Il Ritorno), recipient of the Italian Critics’ Award for Best Play.  Set in Bergamo, in the north of Italy, the source text is rooted in a highly specific cultural and linguistic context, which increased the complexity of the translation process. In preparing a production for English-speaking audiences, LegalAliens combined well-established translating practices (a literal translation further developed by a British playwright) with extensive work on the text in rehearsal as a result of on-going dialogue between the Italian text and developing English version. Central to this process was the casting of bilingual actors, who were able to access both the source and target languages and cultures. The resulting production, at the 2012 Camden Fringe, successfully communicated to the audience a sense of the Italian text, with spectators commenting that they felt as if they had seen the play in Italian. Our methodology, with an emphasis on bilingual casting, diverges from mainstream approaches to translation, including those practiced by National Theatre and Royal Court (Baines, et al. 2011). Starting from the premise that the practice of theatre-making creates a space for social cohesion, the workshop will explore the ways in which collaboration with performers and other artists attuned to a given text’s source culture grants access to cultural specificity and allows this knowledge to be shared with all collaborators and, eventually, with spectators.

Target participants: University and post-graduate students studying Italian language and literature and/or theatre and performance.

Outcomes and objectives: Starting from an Italian playtext, participants will work in groups (comprised of students from both cohorts and members of the LegalAliens company) to get a short scene on its feet in English. Students of Italian will gain exposure to contemporary Italian theatre, as well as practical experience in using their language skills in a professional environment to identify different registers and nuances to non-speakers. They will encounter the field of dramaturgy as a potential career and/or field of study. Theatre students will gain experience working in a multi-lingual rehearsal environment and see firsthand the opportunities presented by collaboration with a bi-lingual dramaturg and cast. For both groups, the workshops will open up possibilities for new ways of staging contemporary European theatre.