Welcome to the pandemic-delayed Spring 2020 issue of The Mercurian: A Theatrical Translation Review! I hope you and those close to you are staying safe and sane. As all theatrical translators already knew, and the pandemic proves once again, despite our different languages and cultures we are all globally connected. I look forward to a time when our theatres can re-open and artists can reach out to audiences in all the myriad modes of creation. Perhaps even by producing some of the plays in translation published in The Mercurian!
The issue begins with Brishti Guha’s translation of an excerpt from Mahendravarman’s seventh century Sanskrit play Intoxicated! from India. Intoxicated! is a satiric one-act that depicts the drunken exploits of a mendicant from an ascetic order associated with Siva and his girlfriend as they search for his lost begging bowl made from a skull. From East to West, the seventh century to the present, there have always been religious figures pursuing decidedly non-spiritual lives. As Guha’s introduction to the translation makes clear, certain highly literary aspects of the original Sanskrit text meant to be sung by the actors have been incorporated into the English dialogue to make them more accessible to a contemporary audience.
Intoxicated! is followed by David Lisenby’s translation of Cuban playwright Gerardo Fulleda León’s children’s play Rwandi. This charming play uses playful language and characterization to tell the tale of a runaway slave boy as he journeys to freedom and maturity. Lisenby’s translation of Rwandi takes the opposite tack to Guha’s translation of Intoxicated! as he retains the simple rhyme schemes of the original Spanish songs in the text and captures the Afro-Cuban spiritual tradition that pervades Rwandi’s journey.
As this issue begins in the East with a seventh century Sanskrit play, we round out its plays in translation with one from the fifth century West with Brian Vinero’s translation of the Ancient Greek Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis. Where Intoxicated! and Rwandi show us aspects of Hindu and Afro-Cuban spiritual practices, Ancient Greek tragedy was itself a religious ritual meant to transform its audience as that audience acquired knowledge. Like Intoxicated! and Rwandi’s use of song, Iphigenia at Aulis also contains Euripides’ choral odes that were meant to be sung. Vinero’s approach to Euripides’ play is to render it all, both spoken text and choral odes, in rhymed verse in iambic pentameter. He has also chosen to craft his own versions of the play’s missing opening scene and of its extant closing scene that is inconsistent with Euripides’ style. Readers can compare his approach with Iphigenia at Aulis to Emma Pauly’s translation of Euripides’ The Bacchae, published in The Mercurian Vol. 7, No. 4 Fall 2019, where she chose to render the spoken text in that play in prose but the choral odes in verse, and also had to contend with a missing chunk of the original Ancient Greek.
The issue continues with Rebekah Maggor’s review of two books on Arabic theatre, Sentence to Hope: A Sa’dallah Wannous Reader, translated and introduced by Robert Myers and Nada Saab, and their edited volume Modern and Contemporary Political Theatre From the Levant: A Critical Anthology. Long time readers of The Mercurian will recall previous publications of Arabic theatre including a review of Maggor’s own volume Tahrir Tales: Plays from the Egyptian Revolution edited with Mohammed Akbakry published in The Mercurian Vol. 6, No. 3 Spring 2017, Roger Allen‘s translation of Sa’dallah Wannous’ Soiree for the Fifth of June in The Mercurian Vol. 5, No. 2 Fall 2014, and Hannah Amit-Kochar’s article, “Performing Arabic Plays on the Israeli Stage,” published in The Mercurian Vol. 1, No. 1 Spring 2007.
The issue concludes with Advisory Board member Neil Blackadder’s review of Seven Plays of Koffi Kwahulé: In and Out of Africa, translated by Chantal Bilodeau and Judith G. Miller. Blackadder’s own translations Rebekka Kricheldorf’s The Ballad of the Pine Tree Killers and of Thomas Artz’s Chirping Hill can be found in The Mercurian Vol. 1, No. 3 Winter 2008 and Vol. 5, No. 1 Spring 2014 respectively. Readers interested in further works by Kwahulé can find Jill MacDougall’s translation of his play Bintu published in The Mercurian Vol. 1, No. 2 Summer 2007.
Back issues of The Mercurian can be found at: https://the-mercurian.com/.
As the theatre is nothing without its audience, The Mercurian welcomes your comments, questions, complaints, and critiques. Deadline for submissions for consideration for Volume 8, No. 2 Fall 2020 will be October 1, 2020.