The pioneering immersive theatre company Punchdrunk are renowned for reinventing texts from the Western canon into vivid sensory worlds for a roaming audience. Prior productions have retold Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Büchner’s Woyzeck, primarily through design and dance, across vast sets encompassing multi-storey warehouses. Yet some audiences complain that it is difficult to locate narrative in Punchdrunk’s work, where it is deconstructed across multiple media. This essay explores whether considering Punchdrunk’s work via translation studies might illuminate their approach to transforming text, and seeks to problematise the sense that Punchdrunk’s work bears only a loose relation to its source material. I do this by extending my concept of paralinguistic translation (Cole 2017), which I take to refer to the translation of language, themes, images, and even issues to do with the performance context and reception history of a work into other elements of the theatrical experience, such as the mise-en-scène. Here, I consider Maxine Doyle’s choreography in Punchdrunk’s The Burnt City (2022), based upon Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and Euripides’ Hecuba and upon which I am dramaturg, as such a form of translation. I explore the possibilities of such an approach, and blend analysis of the performance with insights from the rehearsal period, to test the limits of the theory when applied in the embodied realms of choreography and immersivity.
|Title of host publication||Translation in the Performing Arts|
|Editors||Enza De Francisci, Cristina Marinetti|
|Publication status||In preparation - 2024|