25th January, 2022 / 14:00 - 15:00
11th January, 2019
This British-Academy-funded two-day conference asks why there are so few contemporary European plays in translation produced on British stages? What are the barriers to the import of European drama? How might we need to reconsider our attitudes to our relationship to Europe and the idea of Europeaness in the run up to Brexit.
Contemporary continental European plays in translation currently make up less than 1% of the work programmed on British stages. While there are a number theatre companies and festivals producing European plays on the fringe (e.g. LegalAliens, Foreign Affairs, Stone Crabs, Voila Europe), only two ACE NPO theatre companies regularly include this work as part of their core programme: the Gate (around two productions per year) and Actors Touring Company (around one production per year). Most theatres in the UK do not stage contemporary European plays at all.
In contrast, the work of continental European companies and directors is regularly imported into British theatre venues (Barbican, Young Vic, National Theatre) and included in major theatre festival programmes (LIFT, Brighton Festival, Manchester International Festival, Edinburgh International Festival). The popularity of the work of European directors and companies on British stages, indicates that British theatre audiences are keen to engage with the visual aesthetics of continental European theatre traditions. In contrast, there is currently little opportunity for audiences to engage with its linguistic, narrative and dramaturgical approaches through the work of European playwrights.
This raises questions around the reasons for the lack of contemporary European plays on British stages. Where are the barriers located – e.g. funders, programmers, producers, critical reception, audience reception? Is there an assumption that audiences will not pay to see European plays? Are there issues around the way in which the ways in which continental European theatre is conceptualised within British theatre as homogenous and inherently other?
The conference is part of a larger British Academy funded project, which also includes a festival of rehearsed readings at The Yard Theatre from Monday 7th to Friday 11th January 2019. For more information please visit: newplaysfromeurope.com
This project has also been supported by: The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, the Goethe Institut and Eurodram.