Issues of Transcultural Mobility in Three Recent French Balcony Scenes

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Department of English, NTNU


Romeo and Juliet's translation and staging by Olivier Py (2011), Pascal and Antoine Collin and David Bobee (2012), and Éric Ruf, who staged FrançoisVictor Hugo's 1868 version of the play (2016-17), provide a stimulating illustration of recent French translations/adaptations of the Balcony Scene in particular. I examine instances of verbal and non-verbal translation of the canonical texts through such elements such as props, costume, gesture, posture, and the body. They all bring to mind Stephen Greenblatt's concept of "cultural mobility"—first formulated as "cultural transfer" by historians Michel Espagne and Michael Werner in the late 1980s to account for interaction and relations between France and Germany. The scenes particularly seemed to defy previous notions of foreignization or domestication, where the source culture is seen as the "self" and the target culture as the "other," and where the process of domestication tends to erase all "foreignness" from the former. Here, I explorehow just three instances of one of the most iconic scenes in Shakespeare is emblematic of a more general cultural mobility in French theatre, thanks to the choice (or choice not) to incorporate French contextual elements in Gallic productions of Shakespeare. I discuss, through the lens of cultural transfer, how the translations repeat or redefine canonical material, and how they show FrancoBritish stages in contact with one another within the context of contemporary French theatre.