Sunday, November 06, 2011

Bless thee Shakespeare thou art translated...

Left myself short of time again, yet I'm still enjoying daily postings.  There seems quite a bit of it going on this year, even if not everyone's all signed up officially for it, something of a resurgence of blogging motivation, which is good to see, even when it means the sidebar feed is changing its configuration faster than I can keep up with it.

A dull grey day today, and this afternoon I trotted along to the unfortunately acronymed CAC ( think it stands for Centre d'acceuil culturel, not quite sure, it is to be found above what used to be the Spar supermarket and is now a state of the art Carrefour minimarket) in Moncontour to meet J and E, who had agreed to come along to see Le TrUC, an am-dram group from Rennes in a French language version of  A Midsummer Night's Dream ( Un Songe d'une Nuit d'Été).  Ok, you can smile, how desperate does one have to be to get out more?  I had until now sworn off any small scale French language theatricals once and for all since being taken, some ten years ago now, to see a production of something in a village theatre resembling a tin can with old cinema seats ( actually it wasn't badly equipped really) with a convoluted plot involving a woman from the provinces who inherits a town property which unbeknownst to her is really a brothel but then the girls turn out to be spies but then the woman herself turns out to be the top spy, or something like that.  It's probably some classic of French popular comedy which I shall now be berated for my cultural ignorance for not knowing about but I only remember it as one of the most interminable and excruciating evenings I have ever spent.  I didn't have my own transport and was really almost in tears of desperation by the time we finally got away.  After that it was music, dance or, at a pinch if Iso and Pascal are in them, mime performances only, with a time limit, and strict insistence on one's own transport and the possibility of a quick getaway.

But I was so surprised to see a big banner for MSND and thought, why not, if they can take the trouble to come out here and put it on I can at least give it a go, and since the ins and outs of the play and quite a few of its speeches are probably about as familiar as anything could be, and since I'd a reasonable idea of its likely duration, it couldn't be too unendurably incomprehensible.  Surprisingly I even found two other people prepared to turn out with me.  It was on last night and this afternoon, with about 30 odd people in the audience and the same the night before, which might have only been about three times the number of people involved in the production but also probaly constituted about half of the compos mentis, ambulant population of Moncontour, so not bad.

And in truth it really wasn't bad.  It was too long; bits of it dragged rather and were spun out unnecessarily, especially the bits with the lovers, and it occurs to me that they're probably often rather tiresome. T he rude mechanicals ended up making us laugh quite a lot in Pyramus and Thisbe, but their rehearsals were weirdly halting and uncertain, and Bottom translated was too fearful and pitiable for my taste, he ought to have a really good time being petted and lusted after by Titania and run around after by Pease Blossom et al.  Titania was rather good, tall  and slinky in thigh boots and a mini-skirt.  All the fairies were good, camp and wacky and enjoying themselves in all kids of coloured tulle and roller skates and other bits and pieces. Though Oberon was somewhat declamatory, the young woman who was Puck was the epitome of Puckishness and very watchable, and generally they could have cut a lot more of the tedious lovers and kept in more fairy stuff.

So much for the action, but what about Shakespeare in French?  I don't know, it seems a truism to the point of the bleedin' obvious to say it should be in the original, but then again, if you aren't English speaking what do you do?  I recognised much of it but it seemed unrecognisable, I had hoped it would be a different music but it seemed sadly unmusical, but that might be a lack in me.  I know there's a worthy tradition of French translation of Shakespeare but don't know enough about it to be discerning.  

Glad I went though.


A few more pictures from the same morning as the liquid amber ones.


Zhoen said...

Shakespeare is remarkably durable. I once saw a Macbeth played for laughs. Not good, but watchable and at times even funny when they meant it to be.

the polish chick said...

i actually own a tome of shakespeare translated into polish (szekspir - i despise that polish tradition of phoneticising foreign names). to tell the truth i have owned it for well over a decade and have failed to open it even once. perhaps i ought to, just to see how it goes.

i recently re-read (for the nth time) the anne of green gables series and for the fun of it read it almost simultaneously in polish and english and loved both for sometimes different reasons. still, shakespeare is a different sort of beast than lucy maud.

lucy, you are still the queen of the macro shot. gorgeous, as usual.

julia said...

an interesting excursion, at least it wasn't a clog museum of the house of granite

I played Puck in a school production once. I wanted to be a fairy but was too much of a tomboy, and my mum couldn't make the wings

Lucy said...

Thanks people.

It made me want to re-read some, but my old complete is yellow paged, unwieldy and uninviting - bring on the Kindle for that one I think.

Mouse - 'clog museum of the house of granite', perfect. I can see you understand...

Julia said...

I'm reading As You Like It on my phone's Kindle app right now, and they work well together. The large font and small display help focus attention on each line. And it is a relief to not need to lug around a big tome with its translucent pages and tiny font!

Setu said...

Very interesting liquid amber pictures, Lucy! The first time I heard about liquid amber or rather liquidambar was when listening to a radio drama. My universe at that time was an almost treeless shore. I heard something like “liquide en barre” or “liquide en bar” (which made sense in a busy fishing town then rich in bars ;-). It sounded as strange as Calatayud, a place in a mystery radio drama, a Spanish town with an Arabic name –Qalat Aayub- I visited years after. Sorry to say there were no liquidambars in Calatayud…
I think there are very good translations/adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays into French. I know it is not easy to render all the puns, the double entendres, but let’s not be too elitist. A smile still comes to my face when I remember Jean Le Poulain as Falstaff, in “Les joyeuses commères de Windsor”, a play I saw in my early teens on a black and white TV set. How we all laughed! But in retrospect I think they should have given a W Breton accent to Evans instead of having him speak like a fake German… (that’s, for instance, how Françoise Morvan does nowadays, when she translates into French Irish authors who have people from the Gaeltacht speaking English, and it works).

Dave King said...

Loved your convoluted plot. As for the Shakespeare, you never can tell: I heard some Shakespeare done in rap the other day. It was brilliant!

Roderick Robinson said...

Last saw Dream at Stratford and decided it was a long way away from being my favourite. Can't imagine translating it into French would enhance it. As you know I looked into French translations (R&J, Merchant, Two Gents) and found they were OK as long as you weren't expecting poetry. Also no attempt made to translate the archaicisms, always defaulting towards the most obvious and the banal. Easy enough with this:

Je suis Juif... un juif a-t-il pas des yeux? Un Juif a-t-il des mains, des organes, des proportions, des sens, des émotions, des passions? est-il pas nourri de meme nourriture... Si vous nous piquez, saignons-nous pas? Si vous nous chatouillez, rions-nous pas? etc, etc.

Less satisfactory when it comes to:

... Trainée par un attelage de petits atomes
Se poser sur le nez des hommes quand ils dorment

The Folio (that's the French publisher not the original parchment) Hamlet was far better.

I wondered what speed they adopted (you mention weirdly halting). I only arsk because the French, required to speak anything less than briskly wouldn't be French. But then they're supposed to be acting furriners... You're more courageous than us. We've taken to sidling out these days with the result that we don't know how Lucia di Lammermoor ends. Perhaps we'd never have sidled in.

HKatz said...

And in truth it really wasn't bad

Reminds me of an amateur production of Midsummer Night's Dream I went to last year. Pyramus and Thisbe were probably the best part in that one, and Bottom was entertaining. All of the actors did their best but some of them were shouting their lines most of the time and the acoustics weren't always good (it was supposed to have been outdoors at a park, but they moved it inside a church because of rain).

Thanks for the entertaining post.

earlybird said...

I enjoyed this but was sorry not to see pics of the production!

I can't do Shakespeare in French but maybe it's because the productions we get here tend to be highfalutin' Avignon Festival ones. Probably as unbearable if they were staged in VO.

Phil Masters said...

Dream may be amenable to a multilingual approach. Something about the themes and such - you expect the fairies to be a bit strange. We went to see a production that was partly in various Indian languages a couple of years back, which worked just fine. Of course, it helps if there's a bit of physical comedy thrown into the mix.