REVIEW: Shakespeare Conversation at the Shakespeare Centre
Sara Westh reviews What country, friends, is this?: Shakespeare in Minority Languages
The world often turns out to be wider and broader than we think. Elizabeth Jeffery from the Shakespeare Institute took us on a journey around the world during the most recent Research Conversation at the Shakespeare Centre. She spoke about Shakespeare translations and performances in Welsh, in Euskera (the Basque country), and in te reo Maori. The marginalised nature of the languages makes the translation of Shakespeare itself a political act. A recipient of this year’s Louis Marder Shakespeare scholarship, Elizabeth is making a special study of ethnic identities alongside language as a political tool.
She draws upon theatrical productions as well as archival texts. But because all three languages have suffered from suppression she has built an increasingly significant archive on her own. Her presentation reflected her passion for the topic. She herself is a linguist with a desire to explore other languages and cultures.
During the questions, Elizabeth highlighted how important it is for her to stay aware of her own mainstream cultural background and assumptions. Interviewing actors and directors about how their productions raise awareness of cultural and political oppression can often prove tricky. Yet, ultimately, Elizabeth found that minority-language Shakespeare is celebratory, fresh, and radical. It treasures its own culture, and engages with Shakespeare in new and eye-opening ways.
The next SBT Research Conversation is on Wednesday, 11th December 5pm to 6pm at the Shakespeare Centre: ‘Inter-war Illustrations of Shakespeare’. Led by Alexander Thom (The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham). Entry is free. No tickets required. All welcome.