Last month I attended the Warwick Translates Summer School at the University of Warwick, a series of literary translation workshops and talks led by leading professional translators and publishers. As I hadn’t been to a translation event in quite some time and this one was especially geared towards literary translation, I was quite excited. My enthusiasm clearly showed as I tried to cram in three modules over the 5 days: French translation, Spanish translation, and Theatre translation.
Last week, I watched Les Misérables on stage for the first time ever. I know – I worked in a theatre for 9 years, but this particular show had passed me by. Partly because I live over 200 miles away from the West End so I mostly rely on shows touring to my part of the world, but also because my existing knowledge of the show painted it as a depressing tragedy, so I wasn’t exactly in a rush to see it.
But there’s a reason why it’s one of the longest-running musicals in the world: despite the sad events throughout, I found the performances incredible and it was hard not to get swept up with those iconic songs. Ever the linguaphile, the next day I looked up the original French soundtrack on YouTube to see how it compared with the English.
Captioning, and in particular theatre captioning, is not necessarily directly related to translation – it tends to be used to provide access to audience members who are hard of hearing. Captioning is different to video subtitling and opera surtitles (which often do have an element of translation), as captions give extra information, such as indicating who is speaking as well as sound effects, in order to give the best experience to the viewer who may not be able to hear these aspects otherwise.