Theatre in translation: A-beng does the Bard

ShakespeareAn article in the magazine New Taiwan (新台灣) reports the localisation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream by a theatre troupe in Tainan. This is notable for two points – the first is that the language being used is ‘street’ Taiwanese, not Mandarin and not formal Taiwanese (which only a few academics and poets are intimate with nowadays) – this is a progression from the practice of interpreting Shakespeare in language equivalent to 17th century English.

除了台語是劇團日常生活的語言,用在舞台上可以表達更為深切的情感之外,呂柏伸導演認為,台語的聲韻和詞彙比華語更豐富,用來翻譯莎士比亞的作品可以呈現出更為細膩的部分。

Quick loose translation:

Apart from the benefits of using everyday Taiwanese to represent a more heartfelt and moving drama, director Lu Peh-chhun believes that the cadences and vocabulary of Taiwanese offer a greater range than Mandarin, enabling a more exquisite rendering of Shakespeare’s works of art.

The second point of interest is that the names of the characters and the locales have also been adapted to be more familiar to local audiences. Actors from Malaysia (where Penang Hokkien, a close relative of Taiwanese is spoken) are appearing alongside Taiwanese thespians – for more details see the article entitled The Little Theatre Boldly Bringing Taiwanese Shakespeare to Life (Mandarin Chinese).

3 Responses to “Theatre in translation: A-beng does the Bard”

  1. Mark says:

    vocabulary of Taiwanese offer a greater range than Mandarin

    It’s very, very hard to take that sort of claim seriously, especially considering how many more Mandarin speakers there are.

  2. admin says:

    Hi Mark – I’m afraid your reply got caught by my over-zealous spam filter and I’ve only just seen it now.

    In reference to your comment, I think that the director is talking about the emotional range of Taiwanese, rather than the sheer number of vocabulary items. It’s common for Taiwanese speakers to categorise the language as being more expressive than Mandarin; as to how justified they are in those claims, I wouldn’t like to say.

  3. Mark S. says:

    For examples of some such claims, see Linguistic Nationalism: The Case of Southern Min, especially section IV, “On the ‘Superiority’ of a Topolect.”

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