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From ‘Barbeque’ to ‘Braai’: contemplating the translation process as Bat Boy – the Musical crosses cultures

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Savran posits that the genre of the ‘Broadway-style’ musical should be approached from a transnational perspective that ‘emphasizes interconnectedness and the crossborder fluidity of cultures’. South Africa has a long history of importing theatre forms as well as of localizing or ‘transplanting’ American and European playtexts in productions produced on local stages in both pre- and post-apartheid contexts, and the Broadway-style musical proved no exception. The ‘township musical’ used the format of the Broadway-style musical to tell South African stories and became a specific and influential form of hybrid theatre. This article reflects on the directorial process that was followed in order to translate the American source playtext of Bat Boy – the Musical to the South African context, and the playtext was explored within the cross-cultural – and, more specifically, the intercultural – theatrical framework. In order to substantiate the translation, the distinctions between theatrical translation, adaptation and variation were contemplated and the adoption of a twotiered, translation approach was advocated. In the first tier of translation, relevant dynamics in theatrical semiotic processes were used to analyse the playtext of Bat Boy – the Musical, taking cognizance not only of the ideological and aesthetic codes found within the source text but also of the corresponding social and textual codes within the sociocultural domain to which the playtext was translated. The second tier of translation occurred at the level of the mise-en-scène as the multicultural and multilingual cast sourced their diverse, cultural backgrounds and unique social codes as well as South African theatrical codes in order to place the musical in the South African context. Whilst this article endeavours to report on the translation of a musical theatre playtext from one cultural context to another, the motivation behind the project was to contribute to knowledge creation in the field of South African musical theatre by exploring the ways in which the Broadway-style musical articulates within the multicultural and multilingual, post-apartheid South African context.
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Keywords: South African musical theatre; cross-cultural theatre; intercultural theatre; multiculturalism; theatrical semiotics; theatrical translation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Pretoria

Publication date: June 1, 2015

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