Brecht in the Streets of Sri Lanka

by Dharmasiri Kanchuka

Current theories of translation and theater, predominantly centered ina Euro-American context, are of limited applicability to settings that are culturally,economically, and socio-politically different from professional and mainstreamtheater spaces in the west. This paper explores the possibilities ofexpanding theories of theater translation through an interrogation of actual translationalpractices that take place in postcolonial and alternative performancespaces. This question is examined through the transcreations of Brecht’s workby the Wayside and Open Theatre, the first political theater group in Sri Lanka,analyzing how they transform Brecht into powerful street performances thatscrutinize the nature of power, violence, and silence in a postcolonial space. Byexamining these performances, I intend to reconsider accepted notions in studiesof theater translation such as the assumed dichotomy between translator and director.The study also explores the complex modes of transference and retransferenceof power characterizing theater translations in postcolonial spaces. I willalso explore the multiple variables that come into play in theater translations inalternative theater settings, and discuss why the term “transcreation” would beappropriate in identifying this process.

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