The Father and other Theatre Translation

The Father is to be made into a film starring Anthony Hopkins with the writer Florian Zeller as director.  Anyone who saw the original stage play would celebrate that it’s being made into a film.  How much of the success of the play was down to the translation by playwright Christopher Hampton and his working relationship with Florian Zeller, is unknown, but I would think it’s 80%.  Any actor who’s laboured under the words of a bad translation knows the value of a clean well transposed/translated & adapted script.   Scripts that are translated, to sound stilted and remote  – giving signals of “look how intellectual we are” to a puzzled audience were blown away  all those years ago by Dorothy Parker in the New Yorker.
Richard Eyre’s adaptation of a translation of Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen was in the bone, crystal clear.  Ibsen, perhaps because there weren’t many translators into English from his Norwegian influenced  Danish, in the mid 1800s, was uneasily translated right up until the1970s.
In a letter written in 1872, Henrik Ibsen said that the translation of his plays was:  “not simply a matter of translating the meaning but also, to a certain extent, of re-creating the style and the images and ultimately adapting the entire form of expression to the structure and demands of the language into which one is translating.”
For a long time I’ve been interested in the adaptation of a couple of plays of Camus and was fortunate enough to meet an expert in Theatre Translation – Dr John Whittaker at a CIOL event, who sent me information on the background to Cross Purpose (The Misunderstanding) and a link to La Société pour l’étude de Camusienne, which gives a background to the impetus behind Camus’ plays.

It is quite rare for a living playright to offer their work to a translator without first knowing them.  It happened to a student of mine a few years back, who was asked by the literary department of the National Theatre to translate a play from the original French.  It was a success and a good experience for her, – she is a very good in-depth listener and would always read her work out loud.  She also works in voice-overs in Spain where she now lives.

Looking  forward to seeing  Anthony Hopkins star as Andre in the film adaptation  of Florian Zeller’s  The Father.

Florian Zeller with Christopher Hampton

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