At the end of 2020 my supervisor, Aleksandar Dundjerovic, asked if I had a script which could be sent to a group of acting students at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad. In order for this piece to be performed it initially had to be translated.
I had a meeting with the translator to discuss any issues arising during the translation. The main concern with the translation was that in Serbian the names for things in physics are all gendered. She was worried that there was some specific gender assigned to each character that would be undermined by this aspect of the language. I was able to assure her that none of the characters needed to have any specific gender and that the gender of the noun should also not dictate the gender of the actor portraying that character.
Most of the other problems were fairly minor and involved the issue of finding words with the correct metaphorical meanings in them. The original script in english is filled with double meanings as the emotional language reflects the physics and visa versa. It was important to make sure that this came across in the Serbian.
There was one line of text which has a strong cultural meaning here, but the translator felt would not resonate in Serbia. This was a line spoken by the Singularity after the Electron has met multiple alternate reality versions of itself: “Marley was dead to begin with.” This line is also the first sentence of the book A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I used it as I had clearly made use of the form of this story to help the Electron gain knowledge of its identity (just as Scrooge learns about himself in the book). It also references the famous Schroedinger Cat thought experiment, where knowledge of the cat being dead or alive is only attainable once the box is opened and therefore the outcome is determined. The translator felt that it was unlikely a Serbian audience would understand this reference and probably think to Bob Marley before anything else. We decided to change it to something that the translator felt was culturally relevant. This ended up being: “Jesus died before he came home”. I believe however this line was cut in the final piece as it seems that the Singularity does not say anything at the point where this should come in.
The feedback from the director and students was very positive. The use of physics had meant that the work was very easily accesible to the Serbian participants, even though it was created for a British audience initially. The students, director and film maker did a fantastic job of interpreting the characters and the story. Despite the fact that the piece is not staged it still carries the story well, and was easy for me to follow even though I do not speak Serbian (although I know my english script). I was particularly happy with how the Electron and Positron had been characterised in such a humorous way, and the use of an all seeing narrator was a nice addition. I have myself used a narrator in this piece to help guide the audience through the story and believe that some of my narrator script may have been used here. All the performances were charming and approached the script with the comic and tragic timings I had initially imagined. It was very nice to see freedom of interpretation in the text, after having experienced it so often through the rigid form of scored music. I also enjoyed that the team had chosen to portray a happy ending to the piece, in which the Electron and Positron don’t explode, or continue to exists somehow somewhere. I am always drawn towards inevitable doom so it was very refreshing to see this choice being made in this interpretation.
To watch this piece please see below.