Un-natural selection

Un-natural selection

25 March 2018

To what extent is history repeating itself? asks Anne Mulleners

While most work at NSDF originated in Britain, theatre company Cut the Cord investigates the human capacity for empathy through international new writing. As my own theatre background is internationally focused, I was intrigued by their use of “foreign” new writing and their choice of Kinder K, a new Norwegian play, written by Kristofer Grønskag. I spoke with the company's Danish director, Camilla Gürtler, about the challenges of translation and adaptation across borders, and its meaning in our politically divisive times.

Kinder K is split across two timelines. It sees a German couple in 1939 and a British couple in 2018, both expecting the birth of a disabled child. The play explores the choices we make – and don’t make – and asks whether today’s genome-revolution is scientific progress. Or is it too similar to the “mercy killings” perpetrated by the Nazi’s Action T4 programme?

Adaptation and translation is a process of difficult choices. To retain the original context, how does one explain a culture outside of its original language? To Cut the Cord, this problem was partly solved by the prior translation of the play. In Norway, plays are often directly translated into English to enhance their international appeal.

But to Gürtler, the questions at the heart of the play were already universal. For her, it is less about explaining a culture and more about making this discussion a two-way process with the audience. The company invited several institutions such as the Down Syndrome Research Foundation and the Francis Crick Institute to support the discussion after the performance and offer professional insights. “We don’t just want to tell people what to think,” she said. “We want our audiences to form their own opinion through discussion and feedback.”

The conversation around borders extends past the subject of the play itself. For Gürtler, championing the benefits of cross-cultural pollination feels particularly timely in light of Brexit. It is now about staying despite difficult choices and “fighting the fight”. She aims to continue using her influence as an artist to enhance international connections and extend the network she has been building. “There is a lot of uncertainty for now, but in the end, Britain is also my home.”

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