Distance and Proximity in Analysing and Translating Bailando sola cada noche (Dancing alone every night)
Sophie Louise Stevens
Volume 6, Issue 2 (Fall 2016)
This article focuses on the process of translating Bailando sola cada noche written by Uruguayan dramatist Raquel Diana in 2008. In 2010 the play was awarded the first prize for Theatre (Comedy) in the Premios Anuales de Literatura del Ministerio de Educación y Cultura del Uruguay. In 2013 the play was selected for inclusion in the series of rehearsed readings held at the Asociación General de Autores del Uruguay in Montevideo and organised in conjunction with the Escuela Multidisciplinaria de Arte Dramático (EMAD), and it has not yet had a full production. The text was published by Editorial Yaugurú in 2013 and this edition was awarded second prize in the drama category in the Premios Nacionales de Literatura del Ministerio de Educación y Cultura del Uruguay in 2015.
Bailando sola takes as a starting point the true story of the death of a woman in London, Joyce Vincent, who was found dead, slumped in front of her TV, having remained there for approximately two and a half years. Her body was discovered in her flat in Wood Green, North London, in February 2006 when local authorities entered in order to investigate rent arrears. The play presents an imagining of Joyce Vincent’s experience of death. Raquel Diana dramatizes Joyce’s death by ascribing actions, gestures, words and songs to the period of time about which it is practically impossible to ascertain any details; that is the period of time between her death and the discovery of her corpse. Some aspects of the experience of the protagonist of Bailando sola coincide with the story of the real Joyce Vincent, in particular both women experienced domestic violence with their ex-husbands. The play is set in the enclosed space of Joyce Vincent’s living room and the playwright uses the artifice of the private to provide an insight into the protagonist’s afterlife. This dramatic artifice also serves to establish a sense of intimacy and proximity between audience and actors which is enhanced through the performance because what the audience witness in the theatre is immediate, transient and unique.
The experience of abuse is brought to light in Joyce’s opening monologue during which she tries desperately to describe, understand and remember what she was doing before a sudden pain to her head occurred:
Lo último que recuerdo es un dolor de cabeza… Un dolor absurdo de tan grande. Insólito por lo repentino…Así: ¡stuc!… […] Hice una rápida comparación con los golpes que me daba mi marido… No…éste dolía más… Mi marido me pegaba de frente, como un hombre. Éste golpe fue como por atrás, a traición… Era como una aguja de tejer clavada con un matillo…
The last I remember is a headache… an overwhelming, staggering pain. Strange because it was so sudden… like: bam! … […] I did a quick comparison with the blows I used to get from husband… No… This hurt more… My husband always faced me when he hit me, like a man. This blow came as if from behind, treacherously… It was like a knitting needle nailed into my skull with a hammer…(4-5)
Her previous experience of abuse becomes a point of comparison and in this way, the playwright indicates the significance of repeated acts of violence on the physical and mental wellbeing of the protagonist. This comment also implies a sense of integrity and purpose associated with the violence committed by Joyce’s husband and other men, thus forming a link between men and a type of violence that is both controlled, and used to control others. It implies that, due to the repetition of this violence, Joyce could always predict it and knew what to expect: despite the fact that it completely violated her safety, her rights and her happiness, there were rules which governed the domestic attacks, unlike the unpredictable and unexpected violence of the pain to her head. In scene six, after the character of the Woman states explicitly that Joyce is dead, Joyce suggests that the pain to her head was a brain haemorrhage which caused her death at the very beginning of the play. The control surrounding the execution of domestic violence is evident in these opening lines but the idea of control also manifests itself through the ongoing impact of the domestic abuse, even after Joyce separated from her husband, because the aftermath of violence continues to govern her experience in her afterlife.
Marjorie Agosín asks ‘How to speak with the dead?’ in the title of one of her essays about human rights in Latin America. This question is provocative and the way in which it is phrased allows for two readings of it: it asks how might we be able to establish some line of communication to the dead? And, what might we be able to speak to them about? What might they be able to tell us? It is also significant that the use of the connector ‘with’ suggests a dialogue rather than one-way communication. These questions are pertinent as we approach the analysis of Bailando sola in which the playwright creates a dramatic space that allows the audience to come into contact with the dead protagonist in her afterlife. In Specters of Marx (Spectres de Marx) Jacques Derrida highlights the link between the afterlife of the spectre and dialogue. Colin Davis explains that, ‘Derrida’s spectre is a deconstructive figure hovering between life and death, presence and absence, and making established certainties vacillate.’ In this comment Davis suggests that the in between life and death space occupied by the spectre affords it a unique function: it is precisely through this in-betweeness that the spectre is able to interact with both of these spaces and challenge established ideas.
In Bailando sola, Raquel Diana creates a dramatic space in which Joyce’s death is played out in the recognizable domestic setting of her flat where she carries out familiar tasks and actions rooted in a recognizable reality surrounding her everyday life. Throughout the play it seems that Joyce does not fully realize that she is dead and as the action develops, it becomes evident that no one else in her life has realized this either, due to her extreme isolation. Diana therefore constructs an in-between space for Joyce located in her flat where the protagonist seems to hover between life and death as she must wait for her corpse to be discovered. In this way, the dead protagonist in Bailando sola poses a challenge to the audience’s understanding of death as the end of presence and, as my analysis will demonstrate, provokes questions around security, isolation and vulnerability.
Colin Davis develops the link between the spectre and knowledge: in challenging what we think we know, what might the spectre tell us? For Derrida, ‘the spectre’s secret is a productive opening of meaning rather than a determinate content to be uncovered’. By adopting an approach to the afterlife of Joyce Vincent as portrayed in Bailando sola as a ‘productive opening of meaning’ we can understand the dramatic space as a constructive and creative one through which meanings continue to be generated. By identifying these openings of meaning within the play this article will show how continuity is central to both the experience of the protagonist and a key aspect of the dramatic structure of the play. This article identifies the techniques employed by the playwright to provoke and sustain a dialogue with the audience that has the capacity to continue to resonate in the future and creates the possibility of retellings through translation and future performances. The key questions underpinning this article are: how does Raquel Diana create ways for the audience to establish contact with the protagonist’s situation and how does this contact function when the play is translated into English?
As part of the lengthy prologue, which includes extracts from both a British and a Spanish newspaper from around the time when the real Joyce Vincent’s body was found in 2006, the author gives a warning to the reader:
Hasta el momento nada más se ha sabido sobre Joyce y su vida.
Así que esta obra sólo contiene hechos imaginados por quien la escribió.
At present no further information about Joyce and her life is known.
As a result, this play only comprises facts imagined by its author. (3)
The story of the real Joyce Vincent has generated a striking number of responses in the form of blog posts and opinion pieces which appear when one searches for further information via the Internet. It has also generated a myriad of unanswered questions, for example, ‘How on earth can a woman lie dead for two years?’ asks one of the writers for the ‘Comment’ section of The Telegraph. He goes on to speculate what Joyce might have been watching when she died and how a TV could play continuously for over two years without anyone complaining, including the licensing agency. The documentary film by director Carol Morley, which postdates the play, also started with a question: do you know Joyce Vincent? She affixed posters in the area in which Joyce had lived, displayed it on the side of London taxis and asked it via social media. The resulting film, Dreams of a Life, seeks to provide an insight into the type of woman the real Joyce Vincent was and to explore how she became so disconnected from those around her – even those who loved her. In fact, towards the end of the documentary a former boyfriend of Joyce’s, with whom she stayed shortly before she disappeared, declares his love for her. The extensive research by Carol Morley has provided an important point of reference when researching this play.
Joyce Vincent’s story originates in North London but through Bailando sola, Raquel Diana shows how it is able to resonate within the cultural context of Uruguay. In an interview in 2013 Raquel Diana explained how she initially interacted with aspects of the story through the information available via media reports and this enabled her to form connections with the remoteness of the experience of Joyce Vincent’s death, which then formed the basis of the play. Therefore, distance and a sense of mobility are fundamental aspects of the creative process of writing the original dramatic text. The prologue to Bailando sola instantly signals this distance to the audience through the inclusion of extracts from two newspapers reporting the death of Joyce Vincent: one in English and one in Spanish. They are articles released by the press in 2006 to report the discovery of the body of the real Joyce Vincent. They highlight the role of the media in disseminating the story internationally and thus enabling it to transcend linguistic and geographic barriers. By including them in the prologue to the play the playwright acknowledges the interaction and intertextuality with the story of the real Joyce Vincent and alludes to her own creative process by showing how she came into contact with this story through the media.
In order to maintain the emphasis on the diffusion of the story, to signal its movement into Spanish and provide a way for an audience in the United Kingdom to interact with the way in which the story was transferred into the Spanish media, in the English translation I have presented the extract from the Spanish media in the original Spanish accompanied by an English translation (and so not removed the original text in this part). This places emphasis on the way that the original story crossed huge distances and entered into different languages and provides a way for the audience in the United Kingdom to access one form in which the story was communicated outside the United Kingdom.
The Internet and media played a fundamental role in initiating Diana’s work on the play and so it is significant that the playwright chooses to introduce the media through the prologue and to make references to the news (29), the headlines (9) and the Internet (19) throughout the play. These references underline the important role of the media in the world today, the constant flow of information with which one is faced and how this information enters and disrupts spaces that previously were disconnected and private. In scene four, the playwright highlights this invasive and incessant nature to modern communication when Joyce says:
Hay tanta gente allí afuera, por todas partes, que es imposible estar solo. Y teléfonos, mensajes de textos, emails, televisión, satélites, internet.
There are so many people out there, everywhere, it’s impossible to be alone. And phones, texts, emails, television, satellites, Internet. (19)
However, the irony in this statement is evident as the protagonist is lonely and extremely isolated; despite all of the means of communication that she mentions, from her accounts, Joyce’s experience of living alone in her flat is notably marked by a lack of interaction with others. Joyce has a television, which she explains was the first thing that she bought when she moved into the flat, and in the opening scene she says that she uses it to drown out the silence (7). The television is important to Joyce and she relies on it for company as a way to combat her solitude but it does not facilitate the exchange and intimacy with another person that she so greatly desires. There is a telephone in her flat which could link her to others but when it rings at the start of scene two, her reaction is one of fear and panic and this causes her not to pick it up as she calculates that the risk is too great:
Cada vez que ese teléfono suena mi corazón se detiene… (alegre) ¿Quién será? (el teléfono sigue sonando) Cada vez que ese teléfono suena mi corazón se detiene… (entre alegre y asustada) A lo mejor es él, me está buscando, me encontró. (el teléfono deja de sonar).
Every time that phone rings my heart stops… (Happy) Who could it be? (The telephone keeps ringing). Every time that phone rings my heart stops… (Part happy and part scared). Perhaps it’s him, he’s looking for me. He’s found me. (The phone stops ringing. (14)
A link is established between Joyce’s isolation and her security: she actively ignores the telephone call in order to protect herself from her ex-husband. The fact that Joyce begins by saying ‘Every time…’ highlights the idea that she repeated this action of ignoring the phone throughout her life and she continues to do this during her afterlife. Therefore, the audience is confronted with the aftermath of domestic violence as an integral part of Joyce Vincent’s afterlife, which provokes questions about the repercussions of this type of abuse.
The extreme isolation of Joyce’s situation evidently made an impact on Raquel Diana and the playwright highlights the loneliness of women as a primary concern through the inclusion of a dedication in the prologue:
Con todo amor, respeto y solidaridad con aquellas que están solas.
Con miedo y horror de la soledad.
With unending love, respect and solidarity for all women who are alone.
With fear and dread of being alone. (3)
In an interview in 2013 Raquel Diana stated that through an understanding of the type of loneliness experienced by women, she formed a connection with the story of the real Joyce Vincent. Diana stated:
Yo creo que hay muchas más solas que solos, que los hombres además tienen un poco más de habilidad para buscar compañía o viven la soledad de otro modo. Pero nosotras, me parece que las mujeres, que la vivimos de un modo muy patético, y patético es una expresión, como, interesante porque es una mezcla de tristeza y al mismo tiempo de cosa ridícula.
I think there are many more women alone than there are men but also that men are slightly better at finding company, or they experience solitude in a different way. But we, women, I think that we experience it in a pathetic way and pathetic is an interesting expression, because it’s a mixture of sadness and at the same time something sort of ridiculous.
The idea of patética is presented in the subtitle to the play; ‘comedia más bien negra y patética’, a black pathetic comedy. Patética refers to both an intensity of feeling or reaction and a complex mixture of sentiments, as Raquel Diana’s comment above suggests. In Bailando sola I understand the idea of patética to underpin the play and the constant movement between the extreme horror of the protagonist’s isolation and the decomposition of her corpse as she waits to be discovered, which is juxtaposed with the recognisable domestic routines she performs. In this way patética indicates the extreme nature of Joyce Vincent’s afterlife but it also serves as a way to mediate the most extreme aspects and sustain the engagement of the audience by opening up the possibility to explore Joyce’s afterlife as multifaceted. As Joyce hovers between life and death her experiences shift between humour and horror, familiar and remote and so the play paints a complex picture of her afterlife.
Raquel Diana’s comment also highlights her understanding of loneliness as gendered and she specifies the identification of a uniquely female experience of loneliness as a key point of contact that allowed the story of Joyce Vincent to transcend evident cultural and geographic barriers. Through this gendered understanding of loneliness, Raquel Diana was able to establish a sense of proximity with the remoteness of the story of a woman in an extreme situation, in another part of the world. This comment from the playwright demonstrates that whilst the accessibility of information can serve to enhance awareness of issues occurring in other parts of the world, contact results from the identification of a specific link to some aspect of that remote situation which creates a route into it from afar. The contact established through the recognition of a female experience of loneliness then created a way for the story of Joyce Vincent to become mobile and move into the context of Uruguay. This type of interaction through specific points of contact is central to my conceptualisation of how we can begin to move narratives across cultures.
The process of making contact with the culture where the text originated involves identifying in the text in the source language a specific link to the target culture. The author or translator identifies in the source text, for example, a certain discourse, or the way in which a particular group of people is represented or a concern affecting a community is depicted. This is exemplified by the link to and identification with the real Joyce Vincent’s experience of loneliness that Raquel Diana specified as a key starting point for the play in Spanish. In many cases, the translator identifies connections between the two cultures concerned in their first encounter with the dramatic text in the source language and this may be what attracts the translator to it and motivates them to translate it. It is through the analysis undertaken in the translation process that the translator examines how this initial connection can function as a productive point of contact between source and target cultures so as to allow the source text to become mobile and to create a specific trajectory from the original place, language and culture to the target ones. In this way, the process of movement across cultures is able to create a link from the roots of the original to the new text in the target language so that these connections can be explored through the creation and performance of the new dramatic text in the target language.
Therefore, this translation process does not seek to eliminate cultural differences through assimilation but rather to allow for a proximity to the culture of the source text that can provide an insight into cultural similarities and differences. In order to determine how this contact functions, I refer to Jean-Luc Nancy’s idea of ‘touch’ between two singular entities: ‘[t]here is proximity, but only to the extent that extreme closeness emphasizes the distancing it opens up.’ For him, ‘“to come into contact”’ and ‘to begin to make sense of one another’ is not to penetrate or to engulf the other but to establish a closeness that recognizes that there can simultaneously be space for differences in between. Rather than effacing the distance between two cultures, the identification of points of contact allows for a simultaneous acknowledgement of proximity, through the connections identified, and distance as the source language text indicates aspects of a cultural reality that are less familiar. The specificity of the points of contact, which allow the text to move into the target culture and to take root there, are central to how I understand the creation of a performable play for the target context, otherwise the translator risks creating a universal play, which can only ever say universal things, which do not resonate within the target context but rather float above it.
This contact occurs as part of the initial analysis of the original dramatic text before the creation of the new text in the target language. Patrice Pavis refers to the translator as ‘a dramaturge who must first of all effect a macrotextual translation, that is a dramaturgical analysis of the fiction conveyed by the text’. By referring to it in this way, Pavis draws the translator’s attention to the dramatic text as a complex construct which serves to indicate not only the verbal utterances of the actors but their interactions on stage through gestures and movements. These strands of action are woven together in the text to develop the plot. It is through this type of analysis that the translator interrogates how the dramatic text functions as a drama and what is at stake in the play. In Bailando sola a link is created between the protagonist’s solitude and her security, which causes her to become extremely isolated during her life so the question of how the vulnerability of solitude will continue to shape her experience of afterlife and to haunt the in-between space that Joyce now occupies is at stake throughout the play. The dramaturgical analysis also provokes the translator to engage with how the play functions within its cultural context, so in the case of Bailando sola, it prompts the questions of how the issues of domestic violence, isolation of women and the discovery of a corpse interact with specific discourses present in Uruguay today?
Pavis denotes this stage in the process, prior to the writing of the new dramatic text, as preverbal. For Pavis, the preverbal does not exclude the verbal but necessarily includes it along with the multiplicity of elements present in the theatrical mise-en-scène. He states that the preverbal is an ‘ante-textual magma’ in which ‘gesture and text coexist in an as yet undifferentiated way’, meaning that it incorporates all ‘the sign systems that make up the theatrical situation of enunciation’ of which the dramatic text is just one, alongside the actors’ movement, tone of voice, costumes and set design. This is useful in pinpointing a creative conceptual space prior to the creation of the new written dramatic text that takes into account aspects of the performance. By specifying a dramaturgical analysis, Pavis asks that the translator approach the text as a text to be performed. In this way, the dramaturgical analysis is an essential way for the translator to engage with the performability of the text. The dramaturgical analysis informs the choices that the translator makes regarding the new text in the target language so that she is able to develop a new text that is performable in that target culture. The preverbal is not concerned with generating specific meanings: it constitutes a conceptual space which centres on forming links which indicate the final performance and impact the dramatic text created in the target language. Through the dramaturgical analysis the translator establishes links between original and target cultures in order to allow the original play to become mobile and move into the target culture. The preverbal space allows for a conceptualisation and consideration of the dramatic text as inherently linked to all aspects of the final performance and existing concurrently in that performance. The dramatic text is created in the verbal phase when the translator begins the process of choosing the words that make up the verbal utterances, stage directions and all the other information indicated by the written dramatic text and necessarily informed by the links established prior to writing the new dramatic text.
For the audience of the original play in Uruguay, Bailando sola provides a window into close and distant cultural realities. There are references to aspects of life in London, such as commuting on the underground as well as names and song lyrics in English, which serve indicate that the story originated in the UK and that the play is located there. However, through the dramatic action on stage, the playwright constantly brings to the forefront and interacts with issues which are relevant in Uruguay so that the scope of the play is not limited to Joyce’s flat but opens up a dialogue between her experience portrayed on stage and the reality of Uruguay, which exists beyond the theatre. Raquel Diana created Bailando sola in the context of a Uruguayan reality in which a woman dies on average every two weeks as a result of domestic violence and the number of reported attacks against women is increasing. Therefore, the representation on stage of the afterlife of a woman with previous experience of domestic violence forms a connection with the reality and severity of this problem.
In Bailando sola the impact of domestic violence is brought to light because Joyce Vincent recalls and retells aspects of her relationship with her former husband who had violently abused her. Through Joyce’s monologues and conversations with the other two characters, El Tipo y La Otra, the audience learns that the protagonist separated from her husband and received assistance from a state-run Housing Association to move into her current flat on her own. In my translation I called these other characters ‘The Bloke’ and ‘The Woman’ and these would primarily be indicators to the actors and director (or a reader) rather than the audience as the names are never verbalised on stage. I experimented with different options for ‘La Otra’ which could be translated as ‘The Other Woman’ and so sparks questions as to her relationship to Joyce: is she another representation of Joyce, such as an alter-ego? Does she represent another woman in the relationship between Joyce and her husband? Is she a spiritual ‘other’ being? Through my analysis of the play I identified that the roles of the two other characters seem fluid as their dialogue often evokes characters and relationships described by Joyce and so the character of ‘La Otra’ changes at different points in the play to represent aspects of Joyce’s relationships with these different women. I chose to call her ‘The Woman’ as this allowed for a fluidity and transition between these different roles and characteristics, which I thought would be hindered by calling her ‘The Other Woman’ because the connotations of the mistress of a married man would be predominant.
The Bloke also transitions between different roles in the play and this is particularly striking when he flirts and dances with the protagonist thus acting out part of her fantasy about her noisy upstairs neighbour. In this fantasy, Joyce knocks so hard with the broom handle on the ceiling in an attempt to get her neighbour to quieten down, something which she has done on many occasions, that the plaster breaks and he falls through into her flat and lands on her sofa: they are finally united and able to talk, drink and dance. Following the articulation of this fantasy, the Bloke takes Joyce’s hand and momentarily fulfils her desire for companionship and intimacy by dancing with her. In the original, Joyce says:
Canté un bolero muy dulce y me invitó a bailar…
I sang a sweet bolero and he asked me to dance… (20)
I chose to keep the reference to the bolero, a Cuban form of music that is popular throughout Latin America, as a hint to where the play was written. This also echoes some of the stylistic choices of Raquel Diana in the original in which the song ‘Knock Three Times’ is sung in Spanish and in English at different moments throughout the play to highlight both where the story originated and the context in which it is now being told. The title of the play is taken from a line of the song Knock Three Times by Tony Orlando and Dawn and Raquel Diana explains in the prologue why it attracted her attention:
Joyce Vincent se llamaba la mujer inglesa en la que se inspira esta obra, igual que la cantante del grupo Dawn que acompañaba a Tony Orlando, famoso por “Knock Three Times” […] Su letra refiere a vecinos que no se conocen a pesar de vivir en un mismo edificio y que podrían haber tenido una historia de amor.
Joyce Vincent was the name of the English woman who inspired this play. She shared her name with one of singers in the group Dawn, who accompanied Tony Orlando. They are famous for Knock Three Times […] The song is about a romance that could have flourished between two neighbours, but they don’t know each other despite living in the same building. (3)
The Bloke seems to grant Joyce the affection that she has constantly been seeking and even to give her hope:
Es todo lo que quiero, un abrazo, un poco de música, un hombre que me ame y quizás un par de proyectos juntos.
It’s all I want; a bit of music, a man to hold me, love me and maybe even a few plans for the future together. (31)
The sense of intimacy created through the dancing is brutally ruptured by the Bloke’s raucous laughter in reaction to Joyce’s comment above, and by the Woman, who intervenes and forcefully separates them. The violent rupture of the intimate moment evokes Joyce’s experience with her ex-husband in which the relationship was brutally distorted through physical abuse and so serves as a dramatic device to indicate aspects of the experience of domestic violence without depicting this type of violence on stage.
In the play Joyce Vincent speaks explicitly about the violent attacks when she is alone in the scene three. She states that she was hospitalised five times as a result of the injuries that she sustained from the abuse but that she hid it from everyone she knew:
Lo de los golpes era mi secreto.
The thing about the blows was my secret. (15)
It is poignant that this revelation about the violence that she suffered occurs when she is alone on stage: the ringing of the telephone signals the departure of the Woman. The secrecy that she has maintained around the abuse indicates her feelings of shame and embarrassment about the violence and creates the impression that this is a moment of confession. The fact that the protagonist makes this revelation whilst alone on stage serves to create a sense of intimacy with the audience as she confesses her secret to them. In this way, the dramatic space creates a way for the audience to establish a relationship with the protagonist. The audience is able to learn about her previous experiences, understand aspects of her isolation and empathise with some parts of this experience, despite the fact that Joyce Vincent is a dead woman.
By depicting the dead woman on stage the playwright poses a challenge to the notion of death as the end of existence. Joyce’s experience of afterlife raises pertinent questions about the significance of the discovery of the body after death and throughout the dramatic action, particularly in the second half of the play, emphasis is placed on the urgent need for this moment of discovery as the Bloke and the Woman seem to anticipate it and prepare Joyce for it. For example, the Woman becomes impatient about the need to leave the flat and is angry when Joyce says that she hardly ever opens the windows in her flat because there are revolting smells in the hallway. The Woman is frustrated that even the smell of Joyce’s decomposition won’t draw attention to them amongst the other odours and so they will remain in the flat even longer:
(con gesto de fastidio) ¡Qué desgracia! Por el olor no nos van a encontrar. No nos vamos a ir más de acá.
(Screwing up her face, annoyed) This is a nightmare! The smell won’t give us away. We aren’t ever going to get out of here. (21)
As the play reaches its climax the Woman states that the neighbours will want explanations from Joyce about her lack of contribution to the maintenance of the building. When Joyce asks why people are knocking at the door, the Woman makes explicit reference to the process of decomposition, when she states what people will want from her:
Que abras. Qué más. Que pagues los gastos comunes del edificio. Que le pagues a la compañía eléctrica, que expliques por qué salen esos insectos negros por debajo de la puerta y ese olor nauseabundo, que bajes el volumen de la tele.
For you to open the door. What else could they want? For you to pay the service charges for the building. For you to pay the electricity company, for you to explain why those little black bugs and that nauseating smell are creeping out from underneath the door, for you to turn down the TV. (30)
Raquel Diana uses the character of the Woman to explicitly place emphasis on the physicality of Joyce’s presence as a corpse and its ongoing decomposition. The explicit references to decomposition also serve to locate Joyce’s experience in the context of a block of flats: the bugs and odours emerging from her flat become a link or a sign to other people beyond her front door, which are ignored. Emphasis is placed on the fact that Joyce’s body continues to rot in a hot, poorly ventilated flat. When Joyce voices her concerns about aging through referring to the flaws in her skin, she reinforces the idea that her body is deteriorating. These references are juxtaposed with Joyce’s concerns about preservation as she describes the ritual of applying makeup and the products that she carefully selects (Bailando sola, 5-6). This is echoed in scene six when she says that she ought to put on some make-up (Bailando sola, 28). Her concerns about aging and improving her appearance draw the attention of the audience to her body and so these familiar concerns, which allow the audience to identify with the protagonist, actually serve as a reminder to them of her situation: for Joyce, the aging process now constitutes the rotting of her corpse which she continues to embody. The body is central to the afterlife depicted on stage and this is reinforced by the ending of the play where the stage directions specify that the character of Joyce Vincent remains alone and slumped in front of the television until the last audience member leaves the theatre.
The final image offered by the playwright through the body of the actor is that of the corpse waiting to be discovered. This is powerful as it is a representation of the way in which the real Joyce Vincent was discovered and so the end of the play forms a direct link to the story that inspired Raquel Diana to write the dramatic text whilst evoking the horror of the situation encountered by those who discovered the decomposing body. It is also significant that the ending reinforces the idea of waiting which is present throughout the play. For example, Joyce says to the Woman:
No me acuerdo qué es lo que estamos esperando… En realidad lo único que recuerdo es un dolor de cabeza… Voy a lavar los platos.
I can’t remember what it is we’re waiting for… To be honest, the only thing I can remember is a headache… I’m going to wash the dishes. (10)
She echoes this comment in scene four:
No puedo recordar qué estamos esperando.
I can’t remember what we’re waiting for. (18)
The ending not only serves as a reminder of the length of time that Joyce had to wait to be discovered but it also forces the audience to actively participate in an act of abandonment of the protagonist. Prior to the end of the play there is a knocking at the door, which creates the impression that the moment of discovery has arrived. The Bloke’s comment increases the expectation that the audience are about to witness the discovery of the body:
Es el problema con los cadáveres. Se empeñan en ser encontrados.
That’s the problem with cadavers. They insist on being found. (35)
These comments reinforce the idea that the protagonist, Joyce Vincent, has not disappeared completely, her cadaver remains and it is imperative that it is discovered. Therefore, despite the fact that she was ignored by her family, neighbours and the housing trust, it is essential that this moment of discovery occurs. The invisibility during her life and afterlife will be interrupted when her body is discovered and so the emphasis placed on this moment of discovery suggests a type of closure or end point towards which the characters have been working.
This idea of the importance of closure through the discovery of the body interacts with current discourses around the desaparecidos in Uruguay. It is for this reason that in the translation into English I decided to use the word cadaver, which echoes the original Spanish, rather than opting for the word body, which is used more frequently in English and which I have used in other instances where cadáver appears in the text. In this way, I sought to highlight this line and to create a sense that this text has previously been inhabited by voices of actors from in a different culture and language. For the audience of the Raquel Diana’s original play, the dead protagonist whose body remains undiscovered also conjures up the cultural memory of those people who disappeared during the Uruguayan military dictatorship. Diana Taylor states that ‘the desaparecidos (the disappeared) are, by definition, always already the object of representation. The flesh-and-blood victims, forcefully absented from the sociopolitical crisis that created them, left no bodies. Those disappeared.’ The absence of a cadaver creates an ongoing void that can cause family members to separate the spiritual death from a physical one or cause them to question whether the individual has actually died. As Francesca Lessa points out, in recent years advances have been made under the leadership of the first ever Frente Amplio presidents, Tabaré Vásquez (2005-2010, 2015-present) and José Mujica (2010-2015), in proceeding with prosecutions for offences committed during the dictatorship and excavating military sites. Raquel Diana created the play in 2008 when these issues were attracting continuous attention from human rights groups, politicians and members of society who demanded that action be taken to find the remains of those who disappeared. The topic of disappearances in Uruguay also emerged following a reading of a draft translation of the play at the Out of the Wings Theatre Research, Translation and Performance group at King’s College London on 1st April 2016 that the playwright attended.
By depicting a dead protagonist, one could argue that Raquel Diana perpetuates the representation of the disappeared by evoking the memory of their absence. But she also poses a challenge to the concept of the disembodied desaparecido by depicting the dead protagonist as a body and as inseparable from that body. Joyce’s presence in her flat and her experience of afterlife are marked by their corporality and the audience’s attention is drawn to her body particularly through the references to the decomposition of the corpse. At the end of the play an uncomfortable tension is established between the permanence of Joyce’s isolated body on stage, which indicates an ongoing experience of disappearance, and the final moments of dramatic action, including the knocking from outside, which seem to indicate the moment of discovery presented in the newspaper articles in the prologue. The relationship established with the audience throughout the play makes this moment more poignant because Joyce Vincent is portrayed as character with whom they can identify but nevertheless they must actively abandon her.
The dramatic structure of the play and the ongoing presence of Joyce’s body suggest, rather than an open ending, continuity; an unending and unresolved nature to the experience depicted on stage. Joyce Vincent’s body is an essential part of the afterlife depicted in Bailando sola and so the permanence of her corpse indicates that this experience is not concluded. The unique dramatic space is significant precisely because it remains uninterrupted until after the audience leave the theatre. The prolonged nature of Joyce’s situation highlights both her lack of agency and control over her situation and reinforces the significance of the discovery. The continuity serves to make the questions posed through the experience of the protagonist in the play more pertinent by suggesting their ongoing resonance. In this way, the playwright creates a way for the afterlife of the protagonist to enter into dialogue with the reality of the issues presented in the play.
Joyce Vincent’s afterlife does not serve to communicate a specific message but seeks to provoke and sustain a dialogue with the audience. For Derrida, the link between the spectre and the future is essential:
There are several times of the specter. It is a proper characteristic of the specter, if there is any, that no one can be sure if by returning it testifies to a living past or to a living future, for the revenant may already mark the promised return of the specter of living being.
Returning is inherent to the behaviour of the spectre and is explicit in the word revenant from the French revenir. Derrida’s focus on temporality forces us to recognise that the spectre is necessarily and absolutely linked to the future. For the spectre that enters an afterlife, which we might refer to as returning or coming back from the dead, does not go back at all. The spectre remains and participates in the future, precisely by coming into their afterlife and prolonging their presence. In a similar way, if we interpret spectres as possible manifestations of the future then they signal something yet to occur and through their presence they challenge our understanding as to what that future might be as they function to open up new meanings by which they indicate aspects of this future reality. In both cases the spectre, through their continued presence, is necessarily linked to the future. It is also crucial to note that Derrida states that we may not be able to distinguish between these two possible functions and so we are required to, in all cases, examine the spectre as living past and living future. This conceptualisation of the spectre ascribes function rather than meaning to the afterlife: it is characterized as productive and provocative. In Bailando sola, Joyce shows limited awareness of the real time but she is aware of waiting. The Woman and the Bloke signal the passage of time in familiar ways by referring to the seasons whilst Joyce continues to participate in everyday rituals and to speak of her plans and ambitions. The sense of continuity established by Raquel Diana from life into and through death sustains Joyce’s afterlife. The dramatic space created by the playwright allows for a dialogue to occur and the protagonist serves a dramatic and spectral function in provoking questions and indicating a wider reality beyond the boundaries of her own life and death. The concept of the spectre as harbinger of a living future is present in the idea of continuity inherent in the play. It is central to the existence of the protagonist linking her to both a living past and a living future. The link to the future opens up a space for retelling and recreation through translation which allows a new manifestation of this prolonged afterlife in a new cultural context.
It is essential that the translation into English maintains this trajectory in order to encapsulate the integral movement and continuity of this dramatic text. Through translation, the afterlife of the protagonist is perpetuated through the replaying and retelling of her story. Bailando sola is a mobile dramatic text but a key challenge in translating it for performance in the United Kingdom is not to assume, because the target culture and language were those of the real Joyce Vincent, that the task was to somehow bring the play ‘back’. It was essential to interrogate and analyse Bailando sola as a Uruguayan play. It is for this reason that the process detailed in this article is crucial to understanding how specific links can be created between two cultures to recognise differences as well as proximity between two cultures.
This dramaturgical analysis ensures that the text moves across in a way that can be performed in the United Kingdom and allows for the creation of a new dramatic text. The afterlife depicted in the new translated text then reverberates with questions which speak specifically into this new context whilst creating a sense of a wider discussion: a dialogue which transcends perceived boundaries. Through the performance of the play in the target culture new audiences participate in this dialogue. In translation for the audience in the United Kingdom, the depiction of the aftermath of domestic violence would evidently interact with this issue in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, in London in 2016 the references in the play to social assistance and isolation are evocative of recurring discourses about a welfare system which cannot sustain the welfare of all members of society and in which some people are treated like a persistent burden and constantly moved around, causing them to become invisible within the system itself, whilst others remain isolated from it altogether and struggle to find any kind of support and security. These discourses represent ongoing issues that remain unresolved. A link can therefore be established between these issues and the unending nature of Joyce’s situation. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that whilst researching the translation of this play in 2014, Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 ran a series of discussions about loneliness and isolation in women perceived from different viewpoints thus highlighting the importance of this issue in the United Kingdom. I was able to draw on the interviews on Woman’s Hour to find examples of how the discussion of isolation in women is framed in the UK today and draw on some of the words and phrases used to inform my translation into English. These links established with current discourses in the United Kingdom allow the play to enter into a discussion of issues and topics, beyond those immediately presented in the play, which are significant now. Points of contact between Uruguay and the United Kingdom allow for this discussion and interaction to begin in the United Kingdom through a play that was written in Uruguay.
A rehearsed reading of Dancing Alone Every Night was performed at King’s College London on 7th July 2016 as part of Out of the Wings 2016: Play Readings from Spain and Latin America, a sharing of work and performances created by the Out of the Wings Theatre Research, Translation and Performance Group. The reading was directed by Camila González and performed by three professional actors following a two-day rehearsal process. This reading provided an opportunity for the words to be tested in different voices and the robustness of the dramatic text created for the target context to be examined through the rehearsal processes, the performance of the reading and the discussions after the reading. On occasions this centered on the robustness of a particular line or an image conjured up by a word in the moment of the exchange, such as the use of the word cadaver in the example cited above which I discussed with some audience members after the reading because it had stood out for them. Another example is when the Bloke appears in Scene five:
La Otra: (a El Tipo) Te pido por favor que nos dejes en paz.
El Tipo: (cantando) Noche de amor, noche de paz, todo es calma, todo es paz…
Woman: (To the Bloke) Would you please just leave us in peace.
Bloke: (Singing) Silent night. Holy night. All is calm. All is bright.
During the rehearsal process we discussed why the Bloke begins singing at this point. We talked about how he sings in order to make the Woman quiet and demonstrate that he does not intend to leave them in peace. By singing, he silences the Woman and hints at his manipulative character, which is signaled later when the Woman states that he is deceiving Joyce by dancing with her. Furthermore, in scene seven he taunts Joyce with possible outcomes to her situation and life had she not suffered the brain hemorrhage when alone at home, which exemplifies a cruel side to his character. In the rehearsal room we did not discuss the original Spanish but it is interesting to note that, as can been seen from the original and translation above, in Spanish the Bloke echoes the words of the Woman: he is able to effectively reuse her words to silence her by repeating the word ‘paz’ (peace) as part of the song. The song that he sings is a Spanish version of Silent Night and, after experimenting with some other constructions and Christmas songs to create a repetition, I decided that this was the best option and that the repetition would be lost in translation. However, in the rehearsal and performance, following our discussion of the characteristics of the Bloke, the actor began to emphasize the word silent as he started to sing and even raised his finger to his own mouth and then to that of the Woman’s as a sign for her to be quiet. In this way, the actor emphasized the line, silenced the Woman and hinted at the manipulative nature of the Bloke through the combination of word and gesture. Through exploring the dramatic function of the line with the actors in the rehearsal room, the Bloke was able to play creatively with the song in order to make the reply equally effective for the performance in translation.
Following the performance, there was a space for informal discussion and this centered on the resonances of the different types of disappearance: from society, from a violent ex-partner, from the social system. In some cases, this paved a way for discussions about disappearances during the military dictatorship in Uruguay and other places in Latin America. Several people commented on how the fact that Dancing Alone Every Night was a translation, which centered on a story occurring in the UK, made them consider how the extremity of Joyce’s situation might be viewed from elsewhere. They were interested in the way a playwright from another country could shed a different perspective on it, including moments of humor, whilst drawing to their attention how aspects of how this problem might be lived and experienced in Uruguay. The play allowed for a broader awareness of how the aftermath of domestic violence and the reality of isolation might be experienced in a different country. Through the creation of the play in Uruguay and the translation into English a dialogue was opened between these two countries which allowed voices from elsewhere to contribute to a relevant discussion about isolation of women, violence against women and the failures of a social system.
In this way the translated play maintains an essential movement between familiar and remote, as the audience are able to gain an insight into a close and distant cultural context. A link between the severity of the issue of domestic violence in Uruguay and the welfare of vulnerable people in the United Kingdom is created but this proximity is achieved without effacing all aspects of cultural difference. What makes the translation so relevant and impactful is that it opens up a space for the voices in Bailando sola, which may seem to emerge from such a distant and different context, to speak in the context of the United Kingdom. Through Raquel Diana’s depiction of Joyce’s afterlife, the audience are also forced to confront familiar and remote experiences. The constant interplay between the recognisable and unfamiliar enables and obliges the audience to relate to the protagonist whilst forcing them to engage with the wider questions provoked by the play. The sense of recurrence in the play is an important dramatic device in opening up a dialogue that transcends perceived boundaries of life and death, but also geographic and cultural context. Raquel Diana opens up a private space in which to portray a protagonist who, whilst obliging the audience to confront key themes of domestic violence, isolation and insecurity, also serves as a ‘productive opening of meaning’ so that the play is able to interact with specific discourses in the United Kingdom. In this way the translated text allows the audience to enter into a dialogue with the protagonist and creates a dramatic space in which we can dialogue with the dead.
Synopsis of Dancing Alone Every Night
Dancing Alone Every Night takes place in Joyce Vincent’s living room and the stage directions specify that the set should include a television. Joyce refers explicitly to the TV at several moments in the play and there are stage directions that indicate that the characters are watching something. The flickering of the TV screen indicates movement from one scene to the next. The play occurs during the time between Joyce’s death and the discovery of her corpse.
Scene 1 is a monologue from the protagonist, Joyce. She is alone and recalls a pain to her head like none she has ever felt before. She tries to describe the pain using the semantic field of the domestic, which includes a reference to the domestic violence that she suffered from her husband. Joyce tries to remember what she was doing before the pain started and sings Knock Three Times by Tony Orlando and Dawn whilst trying to distract herself so that the memories come back. Joyce works backwards from recent memory to recall and describe familiar rituals of preparation: she remembers the frustration of wrapping and curling the bows on the Christmas presents, she describes bathing and applying her make-up. There is a sense of anticipation and of preparing to leave, which remains constant throughout the play, but at this moment Joyce cannot remember where she was going: the last she can remember is closing the door and leaving the key in the lock, something which she used to criticize her ex-husband for doing.
In the scene 2 the character of the Woman (La Otra) appears and in scene 5 the character of the Bloke (El Tipo) appears. Through Joyce’s conversations with these characters the audience learns that the protagonist separated from her husband and received assistance from a state-run Housing Association to move into her current flat on her own. The Woman talks to Joyce about waiting, memory and decomposition, all of which serve to reinforce the idea of the passage of time.
Scene 3 is a monologue during which Joyce reveals the extent of the violence from her ex-husband and the feelings of shame she experienced. She describes her fear when the phone rings and she does not answer it in case her husband has tracked her down. She verbalizes a series of tags to attach to Christmas presents addressed to her family and social workers through which the audience gains an insight into the challenges of estrangement and her efforts to reconnect by performing familiar Christmas rituals.
In scene 4, the Woman states that they are waiting to leave but she does not say where they will go and instead criticizes Joyce for her fear of solitude. They discuss an internet post about Joyce, which is a reference to Carol Morely who made a documentary film, Dreams of a Life (2011), and who was conducting research at the time where Raquel Diana wrote the play.
In scene 5 Joyce expresses her love for singing and performs for the Woman, who sleeps and snores throughout Joyce’s singing. They are interrupted by drilling from upstairs. Joyce blames her upstairs neighbour for the noise and explains how she often hits the broom handle against the ceiling to get him to quieten down, even though she has never met him. The Woman appears frustrated that Joyce’s isolation, even from her neighbours, will mean that they will never be able to leave the flat.
The Bloke appears and says that he responded to her knocking. The Woman seems to know him and asks him to leave. The Bloke says ‘Merry Christmas’ and sings Silent Night. Joyce is confused about the passage of time and asks if it is still Christmas, which would allow her to deliver the presents to her sister and niece and nephew. She states that she bought a gift for her ex-husband but decided not to give it to him because she feared that he would find out where she lived. She labels the presents for her parents and remembers that she was going to take them to the cemetery.
In scene 6 Joyce and the Bloke watch TV and she explains a fantasy about the man in the flat upstairs in which she knocked so hard on the ceiling that it gave way and he fell through. She dances with the Bloke and he sings Knock Three Times. There is loud knocking at the door and the Woman tells Joyce to find a photo and that Joyce cannot open the door because she is dead.
In scene 7 Joyce is watching the TV. The Bloke explains that it is her third Christmas as a dead woman. Joyce appears on the television in a singing contest. The voice of a presenter off-stage announces it and the three characters sing Knock three times in Spanish. The singing is interrupted by an announcement that Joyce’s body has been found. Towards the end of the song, the two other characters leave, moving backwards as if inviting Joyce to leave with them. Joyce sits down in front of the television. She remains staring at the television until the final person has left the auditorium.
Raquel Diana is an actress, dramatist, theatre director and philosophy teacher. She has written more than twenty-five plays and created adaptations of texts for theatre, plays for children and murgas (satirical carnival shows). She trained with the Independent Theatre, Teatro Galpón, in Montevideo from 1985 until 2007. She began writing in 1997 after attending a playwriting workshop and her plays have since been performed in Latin America, Europe and the United States of America. Her work has been awarded prizes from the Ministry of Education and Culture in Uruguay, the Asociación General de Autores del Uruguay (Uruguayan Author’s Association) and the Federación Uruguaya de Teatros Independientes (Uruguayan Federation of Independent Theatres).
More details about the author and her work can be found at the website: http://www.dramaturgiauruguaya.gub.uy/obras/autores/raquel-diana/
Sophie Stevens is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick. She completed her PhD entitled Uruguayan Theatre in Translation: Performability, Mobility and Intercultural Dialogue at King’s College London and has undertaken research at the Universidad de la República in Uruguay and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has completed translations into English of dramatic texts (most recent: The Library by Carlos Maggi, Dancing Alone Every Night by Raquel Diana, Ready or Not by Estela Golovchenko) and she contributes to the Out of the Wings research group at King’s College London. Her recent collaborations include: Out of the Wings 2016: Play Readings from Spain and Latin America; Blackboard Theatre Company, Pedro and the Captain (Vaults Festival, 2016); Arcola Youth Theatre, Translation Plays: Intercultural Workshops (Arcola, 2015). Academia.edu profile: https://warwick.academia.edu/SophieStevens
 Raquel Diana, Bailando sola cada noche, Dramaturgia Uruguaya (2008), <http://www.dramaturgiauruguaya.gub.uy/obras/bailando-sola-toda-la-noche/> [Accessed 17 September 2016]. The play shall be referred to as Bailando sola throughout this article. On Dramaturgia Uruguaya the link to the play is called Bailando sola toda la noche but the text is entitled Bailando sola cada noche and Raquel Diana confirmed this to be the title in an interview that I conducted with her on 30 November 2013. I have translated the play and have chosen to share my translations here to demonstrate my work. The title in English is Dancing alone every night. It is interesting to note, for the purposes of this study, that the Spanish adjective ‘sola’ necessarily denotes a woman because it is the feminine form of the adjective ‘solo.’
 Marjorie Agosín, Ashes of Revolt: Essays on Human Rights (Fredonia, N.Y: White Pine Press, 1996), 53-63.
 Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International, trans. by Peggy Kamuf (New York; London: Routledge, 1996).
 Colin Davis, Haunted Subjects: Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis and the Return of the Dead (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 11.
 Colin Davis, 11.
 This article is developed from a conference paper that I was invited to present at the UCL Society for Comparative Cultural Inquiry’s annual conference in 2014 at which the key themes were distance and proximity.
 Sam Leith, ‘How on earth can a woman lie dead for two years?’, ‘Comment Section’, Telegraph, 15 April 2006, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3624355/How-on-earth-can-a-woman-lie-dead-for-two-years.html> [Accessed 06 October 2016] (paragraphs 1, 3, 4).
 Dreams of a Life, dir. by Carol Morley (Dogwoof, 2011).
 Raquel Diana, Interview conducted in Spanish, Montevideo, 30 November 2013.
 Raquel Diana, Interview conducted in Spanish, Montevideo, 30 November 2013.
 I consulted Diccionario de la lengua española, 21st ed. ( Madrid: Real Academia Española, 1992) and María Moliner, Diccionario de uso del español, 2nd ed. (Madrid: Gredos, 1998) for the definition of ‘patética.’
 Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural, trans. by Robert D. Richardson and Anne E. O’Byrne (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000), 5.
 Patrice Pavis, Theatre at the Crossroads of Culture, trans. by Loren Kruger (London: Routledge, 1992), 139.
 Patrice Pavis, 148.
 ‘Violencia doméstica: una mujer murió cada 15 días’, El País, 24 November 2014, <http://www.elpais.com.uy/informacion/violencia-domestica-mueren-mensualmente.html> [Accessed: 31.08.2016] (paragraphs 4, 5).
 Francesca Lessa gives an account of key aspects of the dictatorships in Uruguay (1973-85) and Argentina (1976-1983) in her chapter ‘The Downward Spiral toward Dictatorship’, including a definition of desaparecidos as ‘persons apprehended at home, work, or on public thoroughfares; after abduction, seized persons disappeared: never to be seen again’. Francesca Lessa, Memory and Transitional Justice in Argentina and Uruguay: Against Impunity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 31-47 (40). The chapter on ‘Pacification or Impunity? The Ley de Caducidad and the Interweaving of Memory and Transitional Justice in Uruguay’ (163-213) discusses the ongoing impact of dictatorship crimes and unresolved cases. Lawrence Weschler points out that during the dictatorship ‘[f]rom having been the freest nation in Latin America, Uruguay had transmogrified itself into the county with the highest per-capita rate of political incarceration anywhere on earth’. A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers (New York, Penguin Books, 1991), 85. The chapter on ‘The Reality of the World’ (81-236) provides a detailed account of the dictatorship period.
 Diana Taylor, Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina’s “Dirty War” (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997), 140.
 Lessa, 147-148.
 Jacques Derrida, 123.
 Domestic violence is a serious issue in the UK with one in four women suffering abuse from their partner. There is a current growing concern with domestic violence amongst teenagers in the UK. ‘Beaten by my boyfriend’, BBC Three, 25 March 2015. Information and clips are available at the programme website <http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0480qvx> [Accessed 25.01.2016]. See also, ‘Murdered by my Boyfriend’, BBC Three, 23 June 2014, 9pm. Information and clips can be found at the programme website <http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b047zl98> [Accessed 25.01.2016].
 Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4, 23-27 June 2014.