posted by Petra Kohse
categories: Spotlight

There it was again, this time at the HAU in Berlin for a guest performance of Jan Klata’s “The Promised Land” by the Polski Express from Wrocław – that good, old simultaneous translation piped in over earphones. At the cloakroom you swapped your ID for the device, switched it to the right channel, stuck in an earbud, letting the other one hang down (in order to hear what they said on stage), and then hoped it would work. Hoped, that is, that the translator’s voice (Agnieszka Grzybkowska’s at the HAU) would be so unobtrusive and intrinsic to the performance that it could be perceived as a natural processing station for all that was said en route from the stage to the brain. It’s best when she (for some reason, the translator always seems to be a she) is not a native speaker of German, but has a slight accent from the country where the play originates. Ever since I watched the guest performance of Lew Dodin’s small-town saga “Brothers and Sisters” by the St. Petersburg Maly Teatr at the Theater der Welt festival in Hamburg in 1989, I’ve associated world theatre with this useful, monotone, charmingly accentuated voice in my ear that makes me feel I’ve listened to (and understood) the real-time dialogue on stage. Compliments to those simultaneous translators!