Professor Geraldine Brodie

Congratulations to alumna Geraldine Brodie (1975) on becoming a Professor of Translation Theory and Theatre Translation at UCL.

Language and translation have been a passion of Geraldine’s for more than 20 years, and have now evolved into a second career. Having completed her MA in Comparative Literature and PhD in Translation Studies, she was offered a Teaching Fellowship, which in turn has culminated in her becoming a Professor in the Centre for Translation Studies. She invited the school to cover her inaugural lecture, “Translation on Stage Today”.
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“Translation on Stage Today” explored the nuances of translating plays for the English-speaking theatre, focusing on Geraldine’s longstanding study of theatre translation practices. The talk delved into the theory of translation, from theories of equivalence and the nuances of faithfulness to the original, to the practicalities of how translations are actually performed on stage.

Geraldine highlighted prevalent use of “literal translations” in UK theatre, where a translator provides a basis for a playwright to adapt into an English performance text. The lecture discusses the invisibility of these translators in this process, often relegated to small print in programmes, despite their pivotal role.

Geraldine’s research also distinguished between direct and indirect translations, with indirect being the most common. Indirect translations, based on “literal translations” often diverge from the original setting and culture to cater to English-speaking audiences. Direct translations, created by experts in the source language, are less common but tend to stay closer to the original.

Examining a sample of plays from 2005, Geraldine delved into the practices of various theatres, their funding, and reception by audiences. At that time, she noted a lack of representation for women, people of colour, and those with disabilities in translation and theatre practice.

Moving to the present day, she observed a slight shift in the gender balance among theatre practitioners, with examples of recent productions including more diverse creative teams. However, the broader theatrical landscape has seen limited change over the intervening two decades, with many of the same plays and theatres dominating the scene.

Looking forward, Geraldine identified a need for re-evaluation of how theatre translation is classified, advocating increased visibility and acknowledgment of translators. She suggested renaming “literal translations” as “dramaturgical translations” to recognise their crucial role in creating performance texts. Her goal is to encourage more diverse translations, languages, and cultures on stage, promoting collaboration and equity in theatre.

To conclude, Geraldine called for a shift in perception towards theatre translation, embracing collaborative, multilingual approaches to widen the voices and accessibility of theatre. Putting translation “centre stage” would foster deeper connections and understanding among audiences and communities.

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