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If Thorne’s Woyzeck was an extreme case, it is not an isolated one. Adaptations and translations seem particularly prone to theatrical insensitivity or other misguided disregard for the playwright’s intentions. Another recent “new version” — of Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at the Donmar Warehouse — critically undermined a generally excellent production with the baffling introduction of textual material which sought to make Donald Trump a co-villain alongside this closely-plotted play’s original targets, Hitler and the Nazis.

This is of course not a criticism of modern productions as such: many are excellent, and though it is in the nature of experimentation that some must fail, a strong play can always prevail against and often be enhanced by a radical interpretation. While Ui was playing in Covent Garden, another Brecht piece, The Life of Galileo, was on at the Young Vic. Although unconventionally staged, the text itself was essentially respected, and a fine work triumphed as a consequence. It is lack of regard for the text itself which is the line that directors cross at their peril.

All acts of translation are re-interpretations — adaptations even more so — and this can provide the excuse that anything therefore goes. But while questions of taste can be submitted to no ultimate arbitration, there are transgressions which are not matters of taste at all. In particular, the introduction or exaggeration of erotic content is an opportunity which many cannot resist. One hesitates to report that the opening scene of Thorne’s take on Büchner’s Woyzeck involves the protagonist (an English soldier in 1980s West Berlin) teaching his Irish girlfriend German and joking that “Ich liebe dich” sounds like “I lick dick”. (Not even true.) Even Robert Icke’s straighter adaptation of Schiller’s verse drama Maria Stuart at the Almeida (2016) had Mortimer informing the Queen of Scots (no doubt to her surprise) that he wanted to “be inside” her. A more borderline case perhaps, but still not an available translation. Icke’s vernacular script was a principal reason why this production was a less successful realisation of a transcendent play than Pete Oswald’s 2005 version at the Donmar: the latter wisely proceeded on the basis that when you have a sublime original on your hands, you are unlikely to improve on it, and the further you stray, the more underwhelming the probable result. After all, no sensible translator would debauch, say, a poem by substituting an expression of passionate love with a crude anatomical insertion. Why then is a poetic play a more legitimate target?

There is a suspicion that what lies behind Thorne’s and Icke’s misjudgments is a patronising assumption that audiences at classical plays will get bored unless they are titillated by frequent contemporary bonbons, often of a sexual nature. Some translators seem to think that cheap anachronisms are a necessary opiate to feed to theatregoers, the price which has to be paid to gain and keep a collective attention dulled by the excitements of film and television, or salami-sliced by social media. It takes a near-genius to achieve the paradox of restoring an ancient original through a contemporary idiom — Robert Fagles’ translations of Homer are for many an example.

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