SINCE the late 1950s, the Théâtre de Carouge has played a rich and vital role in Geneva’s cultural and social life by offering locally and internationally produced theatre productions of the highest calibre, in French, to loyal local audiences, the composition of which has changed dramatically over the decades.
Today the city is home to a multitude of citizens and visitors from a broad swathe of origins, backgrounds, tastes and most significantly for a theatre company, languages.
Minding the language gap
As a consequence, three years ago the Théâtre’s management decided it was time to widen its reach and become more inclusive by undertaking measures to make its primarily French-language productions more accessible to non-French speaking theatre goers.
“There’s a cultural and social need for this in Geneva,” Olga Timofeeva, the Théâtre’s liaison for international public, tells me when we meet at the theatre. “We’re a social organization and we would like to do it for all the people who live here and don’t speak French and would like to see theatre.”
As a first step in bridging the language gap, during dedicated nights of a play’s run, English and/or French surtitles (projected above the stage as opposed to subtitles that are superimposed on a screen as in cinemas and on tablets) were introduced.
Olga, who oversees the time consuming translation of the original French script into “a resumé in simple English” (and sometimes also in French) and who is the steady hand and quick mind behind their simultaneous transmission during live performances, says that surtitles do more than keep foreign audiences abreast of the action. They can also serve as a guideline to improve language skills as well as provide a very useful aid for the hearing impaired.
While test audiences have largely appreciated the surtitles the service poses some challenges: to see the text clearly requires viewers to sit in the higher tiers of seats creating an unwelcome distance to the stage, and for others they distract from the flow of the performance.
Introducing handheld tablets
The solution to these hindrances is arriving for the Autumn 2017 season in the shape of handheld tablets upon which English and/or French subtitles can be seen at close range.
No more having to sit in the rafters and it’s easier to go along with the flow of the onstage action. All that’s required is to reserve the tablets in advance and to provide a form of identification in temporary exchange for them.
Their introduction at the Théâtre de Carouge draws upon an innovative system successfully being used today at the celebrated Fomenko Workshop Theatre in Moscow that allows foreign-language spectators to use electronic tablets to access subtitles during performances.
Dedicated programme for foreign-speakers
Of course, sur/subtitles and tablets aside, the play’s the thing, and with its Autumn-Winter 2017/18 lineup the Théâtre de Carouge is offering some gems for foreign-speaking audiences.
Cyrano de Bergerac
by Edmond Rostand
31 October to 1 December 2017
Subtitles on (30) tablets in English/French on 17, 22, 24 November; additional subtitled performances available upon request for groups of 10 or more.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
by William Shakespeare
A production by Moscow’s Fomenko Workshop Theatre and Winner of the 2016 Golden Mask Prize in the “Drama/Large-Scale Production” category
8, 9, 10 December 2017
In Russian with French surtitles/Subtitles on (30) tablets in English/French
by Michèle Anne de Mey, Jaco van Dormael, and the Kiss & Cry collective
9 January to 3 February 2018
Special English performance on 26 January
For a spectacular visual treat that goes beyond words, the Théâtre de Carouge is organizing and together with the City of Geneva coordinating a performance of The Saga of the Giants — The Knight of Lost Time, directed and performed by the troupe Royal de Luxe from Nantes, France, that will take over the streets of Geneva and Carouge on the 29, 30 September and 1 October.
Special activities for multilingual theatre-goers
To further involve theatre lovers of all languages, a number of special outings and events are currently being planned that will illuminate in clever and entertaining ways the theme of the various productions concurrently underway at the Théâtre de Carouge. For future announcements on these special activities, be sure to consult the Théâtre’s dedicated English web page.
If you would like to know more about the various English-serviced performances and how to reserve a tablet for an upcoming performance, feel free to contact Olga Timofeeva at email: firstname.lastname@example.org. ♣
Main photo caption: The Théâtre de Carouge has multilingual audiences in its sights, offering dedicated English showings, and French productions with French surtitles projected above the stage, and English or French subtitles on handheld tablets. Photo courtesy of the Théâtre de Carouge.