Plays: translations and secret desires

For the Evening Standard, Christopher Hampton writes about the difficulty of deciding which foreign plays and novels will translate to the stage:

I was invited to make a new translation of Marivaux’s Les Fausses Confidences. I knew the play slightly, liked it, re-read it, pondered, and then decided it was untranslatable.

Subsequent versions of Marivaux (in particular by Neil Bartlett) have proved this not to be the case; so what I must have felt was that it was untranslatable by me. After some thought, I counter-proposed an adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos’s 18th century epistolary novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses. After a decent interval, the reply came back: no, on mature consideration, it was generally felt that the novel, in which the central characters never even meet, was unadaptable.

In other stage-related news, Gregory Doran is interviewed about his new production of Shakespeare’s “All’s Well That Ends Well,” and admits to once having been “‘a Shakespeare nut’, hitch-hiking round the country to catch productions. ‘I once saw three Macbeths in one day,’ he recalls, laughing.” He argues in the Guardian that the play is an expression of Shakespeare’s own infatuation with a “headstrong young heir.”

Speaking of Shakespeare, a reader named Nicholas writes to note “John Heilpern’s colossal gaffe in his Falstaff review …. He uses ‘predate’ when he means ‘presage’–as if there were any way Shakespeare could NOT ‘predate’ Chekhov!” The offending sentence is: “Here’s Shakespeare’s great scene about old age and nostalgia, often said to predate Chekhov, and Mr. O’Brien misdirects it as a near farce.”


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