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Reimagining the ‘fifth’ wall: The role of the translator in British and American staged productions of the works of Mikhail Bulgakov

There have been several studies of translated staged productions of Chekhov’s work in Britain and the United States, but there have been comparatively few studies of translated staged productions of Bulgakov’s work. While Bulgakov (1891-19) was a well-known playwright during his lifetime, he is best known internationally as the author of The Master and Margarita, and his plays have been relatively neglected outside of the Russophone sphere. Thus, I focus on the current state of translated Russophone theatre in Britain and the United States, and the role of the translator in staging Bulgakov’s works in these countries. There is increasing research focus on the staging of Russophone plays besides those of Chekhov, and the translator plays an important role in the representation of current issues. In this project, I move away from the translation product towards the actions of the translator and their agency in the creative process of theatre production. I examine this through a mixture of quantitative and qualitative data. Furthermore, I discuss the factors affecting perceptions of the translator and the extent of their agency and involvement in the collaborative process of theatre. I also address the multiple roles played by those involved in staging Russophone plays and share current trends and popular practices, providing possible reasons for these, offering more accurate definitions of these roles, in the context of individual translators. Additionally, I re-evaluate the terminology used to describe the translation process in individual productions and provide alternative suggestions.