Special Seminar on the Dramatic World of Jon Fosse with May-Brit Akerholt

Special Seminar on the Dramatic World of Jon Fosse with May-Brit Akerholt
Centre for Theatre and Performance
Monday 27th April 2015
4:00-6:00 PM
In the Sir Isaac Brown Room, Ground Floor, Building 55, 21 Ancora Way, Monash University, Clayton
Please join us at the Centre for Theatre and Performance to hear a special presentation on the work of the enigmatic Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse by his English translator, renowned production dramaturg May-Brit Akerholt.
“Fosse almost ‘paints’ words, his plays exist as visual statements in the sense that the words conjure up the landscapes of his west-coast fjords and valleys with such intensity and vividness that characters and nature enhance each other, in a dance where the verbal and the visual move as one. Leif Zern claims you have to be prepared to ‘see these plays…You must be prepared to see the dialogue, how the characters sounds, think aloud, are silent'” 
May-Brit will discuss her explorations of, and the limits to a dramaturgical methodology through translation and production dramaturgy.
Joining May-Brit will be CTP’s Jim Daly who will speak on the quest for the grotesque in a production of Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman using an auto-ethnographical and phenomenological approach.
Nibbles and refreshments provided.
Jon Fosse



A talk by Fosse’s translator May-Brit Akerholt


Is there a sense of otherness in Fosse’s work that may account for English-speaking theatre’s failure to take up his work? Does it feel too alien, in a similar way that Beckett’s did initially? But so did Ibsen’s work; it shocked and titillated audiences for a long time. There is no doubt, however, that Ibsen’s and Beckett’s plays grew out of their time and were part of what brought that time forward. Fosse’s plays do that now…


In this seminar, I will talk about translating plays for availability, publication, and performance. When the plays I translated were not to be performed, I was aware of the limitations posed by the lack of a rehearsal period to write the final version, but my long experience as a translator of drama for production, and my role as production dramaturg, played an important part in that process. Three of the translations were produced, and I shall look at two of Fosse’s plays in light of the text changes that occurred during the rehearsal process, once I had access to it.


Two aspects are essential in the process of translating a dramatic text: the first is full access to the original language — if not by your self, by someone familiar with theatre and its language; and the second is, highly developed dramaturgical skills at both textual and production levels. A third aspect becomes essential if a translation is produced: participation in the rehearsal process leading to performance. Throughout my work as a translator of drama, I have asked myself whether researching the processes involved in translating a play and its production will lead to a ‘methodology of translation and dramaturgy’. My conclusion is that although you can have guidelines and work according to certain principles, methods and rules are an impossibility in these two fields, as each and every project offers different challenges, questions and approaches.