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Filling the Gap
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Richard Monette in the title role in Hosanna by Michel Tremblay, 1974 at Tarragon Theatre. Cover design by Virginia Penny.

Photo courtesy of the Performing Arts Centre at the Toronto Reference Library. Toronto Public Library

In 2005, Louise Ladouceur published the original French edition of this work entitled Making the Scene: La traduction du théâtre d’une langue officielle à l’autre au Canada , which was immediately accorded recognition by her peers, winning both the Prix Gabrielle-Roy from the Association for Canadian and Québec Literatures and the Ann Saddlemeyer Book Award from the Canadian Association for Theatre Research. Seven years later, a new translation is now available to a wide reading audience, whom I am sure will still find the scholarship here rigorous and extensive.

Basing her work on a methodology developed by Gideon Toury and Itamar Even-Zohar, the book applies an “approach [concentrating] on the function assigned to translated texts within the receptive context by isolating the norms from which the translation proceeds at a given time in the evolution of [the] literary system” (xviii). From a general body of translated play texts (both English texts translated into French and French texts translated into English) performed in Canada between 1950 and 1999, Ladouceur has selected a working corpus of twelve plays that exemplify an evolution of theatre translation strategies from both the English and French perspectives across six different “periods” within the scope of the study.

The book begins with an overview of the general trends and problems that have confronted the study of literary translation in Canada over the years. The second chapter outlines the problems of theatre translation in Canada and the different ways this has taken place in the French and English traditions. This is followed by a more detailed look at the problems specific to theatre translation, where the pressures to accommodate orality and immediacy differentiate this work from other kinds of literary translation. This chapter ends with a detailed introduction to the methodology the subsequent study employs. The sixty-two introductory pages demonstrate the impeccable care with which Ladouceur has approached not only her research, but also her explanations for the reader. While the discipline of translation studies has a broad following, its particular problematics applied to theatre are less well known; however, anyone with an interest in the area will find in this book a rock-solid introduction to build on. Ladouceur has also given an invaluable context enabling one to understand the highly detailed analysis that follows through the rest of the book.

Three extensive chapters comprise the rest of the work. The first two are titled “Descriptive Analysis”; the first is on the French repertoire translated into English, and the second, on the English repertoire translated into French. Finally the book ends with an overall comparison of the analyzed repertoires. Each of the “Descriptive Analysis” chapters reviews six plays (English translations of French plays or the inverse) using the analytical model outlined in chapter three. The analysis is extremely rigorous, including textual and metatextual details, staging information, and a microstructural analysis of language, grammar, vocabulary, and semantic discrepancies. All these points identify the shifts between the source and target versions, as well as considering changes in each version through progressive productions and publications, where applicable. Given the complexity of this examination, at times these sections can become a bit heavy to read, simply from the amount of detail that is relayed. One begins to feel slightly overwhelmed in minute changes and it can become a bit difficult to keep track of which level of the analysis is being treated. While there are subheadings in these chapters to help guide the reader, I wonder if other paratextual instruments (a table or two to overview the shifts and texts perhaps) might have helped. The original French edition had a clearer table of contents that broke these sections into easier-to-follow units. This, however, is a mere peccadillo and a result of too much of a good thing and not any lack in either the scholarship or the writing.

Finally, the general comparison and brief “Conclusion” step back from the details and provide an overview that...


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