From Teams rehearsals to streamed performances, find out how St Andrews students are using technology to bring classic Italian theatre to life.

Whether your platform of choice is Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, video calls have undoubtedly become a huge part of your life over the course of the past year. Everyone has used them for studying and work, tutorials and meetings, quizzes and catch-ups – but they’re also being put to more creative use.

Take St Andrews’ Studenti di Teatro Italiano, for example (in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention I’m a member). A group of students are putting on an English-language production of La Scozzese (‘The Scottish Lady’), an 18th-century play written by revered playwright Carlo Goldoni. In a time when it is all too easy to feel fed-up of staring at a screen all the time, watching this production come to life is a nice reminder of the benefits of technology: the silver lining on this cloud of tired eyes and aching backs.

All of this has been organised by Dr Robert Wilson, head of the Italian department, and Angella Marzola-Browne, a 3rd-year student. As the play’s producer, Angella told me: “I’d been involved in drama productions in St Andrews before, but the opportunity to translate La Scozzese, which had no English translation, made this experience much more unique and personal compared to just finding and performing a text. I think it’s quite a funny play, and it’s great to be able to share it with people now that it’s been translated!” The cast is equally excited to put on La Scozzese, with John Jennings (Mr LaCloche/Officer of the Court) describing it as “a very promising play and certainly not one to miss!”

As for Dr Wilson, who kickstarted this project, the reason for choosing La Scozzese was a relatively simple one, initially based solely on the name.

“I thought it would be nice to start with this play for a sort of (tenuous) connection to Scotland since that’s where we are. Goldoni is certainly one of the most famous Italian playwrights (or Venetian, strictly speaking) but this comedy is certainly not one of his more famous plays. […] The play itself has a fairly conventional romantic comedy plot, though with a slightly unusual setting and mix of characters. The background to the play is quite intriguing, as it is a reworking of another version by Goldoni based on an earlier play by Voltaire, who claimed that his comedy was a translation of a play by the Scottish author John Home, although no such play by Home exists.”

An intriguing tale, indeed – for any fans of theatre (Scottish and Italian alike), this certainly isn’t a performance to miss. Going forward, Dr Wilson hopes to continue this project and make it a regular event in the Italian department, so it’s a great opportunity for anyone interested in acting or translating.

Now that roles have been cast, our student actors are rehearsing for their virtual performances next month. But before they could get to work, a dedicated team of seven translators spent weeks working to translate the play – an activity which “added a different dimension to the whole thing”, according to Dr Wilson. They had to read the original script and translate it from 1700s-Italian (with Venetian dialect thrown in for good measure) into era-appropriate English.

It was certainly a learning experience for everyone involved. I spoke to Camilla Moreschini and Annika Dahlman, two members of the translation team, and both told me how large a task this was, as the group had to read the play and understand it fully before they could begin the translation work. Then, it was divided into sections, and people worked on their own parts individually, before going over the entire script together (in a couple of virtual read-throughs), to make sure that it flowed and had a consistent tone throughout.

For Camilla, an Erasmus exchange student from Rome’s La Sapienza, working on La Scozzese was a great way to meet new people and get involved with St Andrews’ activities during lockdown. Annika, a 2nd year studying Comp Lit and Italian, had a great experience; as someone who was already interested in theatre and literature, translating this play gave her an insight into this specific and very interesting period in Italian theatre. Both translators would recommend this experience to other students of Italian: it’s a great way to practise translation and increase your knowledge of the language, so keep an eye out for the project next year.

With just over a month to go until the virtual production will be shown through the Byre’s website, all of our cast and crew are so excited for you to see the product of their hard work! Visit the Facebook page to follow the team’s progress, and find out how to get your ticket to watch the play in May: