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Publication Detail
Domestication as a political act. The case of Gavin Richards’ translation of Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist.
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Niccolai M
  • Publisher:
  • Publication date:
  • Chapter number:
    Section 3, Chapter 3
  • Editors:
    Brodie G,Cole E
  • Status:
  • Book title:
    Adapting translation for the stage
  • Number of volumes:
  • Keywords:
    Political theatre -, Dario Fo, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, domestication, translation
In 1980, Dario Fo’s 1974 play Morte accidentale di un anarchico (Accidental Death of an Anarchist) was translated into English by Gillian Hanna and adapted for the stage by Gavin Richards of the Belt and Braces Roadshow Theatre Company and Band. This enormously successful production was staged over 250 times at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London, and Richards was nominated for an Olivier award for the adaptation, direction, and performance in the production. However, Fo himself complained that key pieces of political importance had been cut out, and that the comical sketches in the performance were excessively funny and lacked political intent. Although the difficulty of translating the immediacy and cultural specificity of the political satire of Fo’s plays has been acknowledged, scholars in Translation and Theatre Studies have tended to agree with Fo, and argue that the loss of the original’s comic power and political intentions equate to a loss of the primary text’s integrity and intention. Admittedly, Richards’ adaptation features an emphasis on physical sketches, and includes linguistic choices and metatheatrical references that alter the original text considerably. However, little attention has been placed on the fact that such alterations can involve careful considerations on the part of the translator and the director when adapting a foreign text. Drawing upon Laurence Venuti and Maria Tymoczko’s model of the ‘activist translator’, I would like to argue in favour of the political validity of Richards’ adaptation. According to Tymoczko, the radical manipulation of foreign texts can be an act of political engagement and radical intervention on issues of injustice. In this chapter I will discuss the changes made by Hanna and Richards to Fo’s text, and in particular to the controversial end of the play. I argue in favour of the political validity of this adaptation, and seek to prove that the radical manipulation of Accidental Death of an Anarchist is an act of political engagement determined by the target audience and political circumstances of the time. This approach will demonstrate that through these significant alterations the text gains a political integrity that is more relevant than that which could be found through fidelity to the original text, and indeed by establishing differences between texts, more similarities can be found in the political intent of the works.
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