Conference Report: Crossing Borders

RADAC 40th Anniversary Conference: Crossing Borders: Contemporary Anglophone Theatre in Europe

Paris, October 11th-12th, 2018

Susan Blattès (President RADAC)
ILCEA4 Université Grenoble Alpes


This conference had several objectives. First, we wanted to celebrate the 40th anniversary of RADAC (Recherches sur les Arts Dramatiques Anglophones Contemporains), an association of scholars and theatre professionals set up in France in 1978. Second, as a group which increasingly involves members from other countries, we wanted to look at the wider issue of the place of contemporary Anglophone theatre in continental Europe. Finally, by involving speakers and participants from many different European countries, we thought that the conference would allow us to consider how to increase collaboration amongst drama and theatre scholars throughout Europe, with a view to setting up a European network. We decided therefore to include in the conference programme a session in which this could be discussed.

The conference ran for two complete days and brought together around 70 academics and theatre professionals, translators and publishers. Papers were given in parallel panels during the morning. In all, twenty papers were given dealing with a wide range of playwrights, types of play or topics concerning the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Spain and France, of course. All panels were chaired by specialists coming from the various countries mentioned as well as Britain and Germany. The panels all included a mix of nationalities while speakers ranged from PhD students to internationally recognised scholars. The papers gave rise to fascinating discussions in which our common interest in Anglophone theatre was confronted with the specific contexts of theatre production in other European countries (translating, publishing, programming performing …).

The afternoons were organised differently. There were two round-tables: one brought together theatre practitioners (writers, actors, directors) who discussed the challenges of producing Anglophone theatre in a non-Anglophone context. A second round-table focused specifically on issues relating to translation and the publishing of translated plays (round-table participants came from France, Germany and Italy). Another session was organised in which those scholars who belonged to a network of theatre researchers extending beyond their own institution presented their group. This included CDE (Contemporary Drama in English) in Germany which functions in a similar way to RADAC, the Contemporary Drama Barcelona  group from Spain, and one from Rome. All groups brought up the question of funding conferences, publications, supporting doctoral students etc. A thorough presentation of European funding was given by two representatives from Sorbonne University. Many of the participants expressed the desire to collaborate at the European level.

Two keynote addresses were given. Elisabeth Angel-Perez (Sorbonne University) discussed the presence of Anglophone theatre in France and the role played by certain directors and translators in getting these works performed in France. Peter Boenisch (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama) looked at the work of English directors on the continental stage, insisting particularly on two directors (Robert Icke and Joe Hill-Gibbons) in Holland, Germany and German-speaking Switzerland.

Each day ended with an appropriate climax. Day one concluded with An Irish Story by Kelly Rivière (surtitled by students from Paris 8 under the guidance of Marie Nadia Karsky).

At the end of day two the conference participants were treated to an interview of celebrated playwright Simon Stephens by Dan Rebellato (Royal Holloway London). Simon Stephens is an ideal dramatist to interview in relation to the theme of the conference. Firstly, his own work has been put on across Europe, notably thanks to his collaboration with Sebastian Nübling. Secondly, Simon Stephens has contributed to the circulation of non-Anglophone plays in the UK, having translated/adapted works by playwrights such as Brecht, Chekhov and Ibsen. The discussion between Dan Rebellato and Simon Stephens brought out the importance of crossing borders in Stephens’s work and in the Anglophone theatre in general. Despite the many serious themes evoked, Stephens and Rebellato managed to end on an optimistic note about the role of theatre in Europe to the delight of the conference participants.

A selection of the papers will be published in 2019 along with highlights from the round-table discussion in a special issue of Coup de Théâtre.