Matthew Edison, Amy Rutherford, Jonathan Goad, Rosemary Dunsmore, Finley Burke, Michelle Monteith, and Maja Vujicic. Set Design by Julie Fox, Lighting Design by Kimberly Purtell, Costume Design by Ming Wong. Photo by Dahlia Katz.
Seven people standing and spread out in a dining room under dim lighting

Overlapping Conversations

by Jordan Laffrenier

Meet Bobby Theodore, the Governor General Award-nominated Translator / Adaptor of Public Enemy  

 

 

Bobby Theodore, a screenwriter, playwriter, and translator, has translated over 25 works of theatre. His process? Before translating, Bobby will see a play, meet the playwright and then, ask them to play tennis. Olivier Choinière is really good, he says. But it’s not all fun and games: the process of translating takes a lot of listening.  

Public Enemy was originally written and presented in French, about a Québécois family mired in the politics of the 2010s. For the Canadian Stage production, Bobby Theodore was brought on to translate and adapt the play for English-speaking audiences. But not only did he translate the play from French to English, he updated and adapted the work to present the culture and politics of present-day Toronto families. 

It’s about the divisions that were caused by the pandemic, that were already there and are continuing. People want to blame others for what is happening and there is no answer. People are trying to come to grips with the responsibility of being human. – Bobby Theodore

How to tackle such a big project? Bobby searched for the music of the play, and what it was trying to say. Then he searched for the creative well: the creative impulses that both he and the playwright were pulling from. In this case, it was the sincere love that the family in Public Enemy has for each other, and the resentment that pulls them apart.  

We all feel things we do not want to feel. Some of those things are fear, resentment, jealousy and greed. Another thing we share is an inability to express those feelings.

 

Throughout Public Enemy, multiple characters converse simultaneously. This makes it play like a musical composition; it is literally like listening to a score. The audience is engaged in a very intimate way as they listen to overlapping, competing conversations, and make the choice of what to listen to – and whose side to take.  

 

 


Public Enemy is on stage September 20 – October 8, 2022.
 
Public Enemy by Olivier Choinière, translated and adapted by Bobby Theodore  

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