Following a week away in France to perform Don Quixote by Bicycle, we took the decision early on to perform in French. The brief was clear – start with only the pertinent information. Now that is more then applicable in English with participatory theatre. Our job(s) is to make sure the audience is aware of what has to happen, why, and what they need to do to help. So I took too reducing my lines into informative and instructive. My dialogue in English is neither flowery, nor heavy. Sancho Panza shouldn’t ever really be giving speeches!
The process of reducing it down to merely one sentence a go meant the translation could be simpler. I speak no French – at all. So then we work on stresses, pronunciation just to make it legible to the French ear. Granted it is a worry, as we rely on the conversation with an audience. We need response, to reaffirm our clarity as well as engaging with the story. Breakthrough moments came during rehearsals where passers by would watch and respond. It all appeared understandable to them, which was good.
One of the main points I have taken away from it, are the jokes. Reduced to mere two or three word replies, they got the same laughs. Perhaps my lines in English, at those points, don’t need to be so wordy. They still achieve the same result, but sometimes with unnecessary words.
Although we only got to perform the one show, there have been new approaches learnt. I am not advocating a complete reduction – characters like Don Quixote positively thrive off words. But for the sake of a joke or instruction, sometimes simple, clean and precise works best.