Performative Acts: Translating for the Theatre

Marta Minier, Katja Krebs

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This article explores the relevance of the much contested concept of performativity to the discourse on the interrelated creative practices of theatrical translation and adaptation. It argues that translation and adaptation - two largely overlapping and hard-to-distinguish processes – as performative acts carry the potential to subvert (expose or, more rarely, even resist) dominant values and conventions in the target culture and the target theatrical system. Such hybrid texts (belonging to and reflecting on various individual and communal positions both in the source and the target culture) – in the manner of the Butlerian drag act – can point to hegemonic conventions. As the two main examples - the Royal National Theatre’s 2003 production of The PowerBook (presented to the general public as an adaptation of Jeanette Winterson’s novel of the same title) and The Blue Room by David Hare (“freely adapted from Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde”) – demonstrate, translations and adaptations have the potential to challenge (to some degree) received modes of theatre-making and the concomitant horizon of expectations (Iser 2000). The article thus aims to challenge theatre studies’ reluctance to engage with translation and adaptation as creative theatrical practices; to address theatre translations’ and adaptations’ marginal role and tangential position within translation studies; and shed light on the emotive and ambiguous distinction between adaptation and translation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdaptations: Performing Across Media and Genres
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • translation
  • adaptation
  • performativity


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