penny black

Dramaturgy + Adaptations


What is dramaturgy? The Dramaturg's Network describes dramaturgy as building bridges. After many years of working on texts, I would say that the dramaturg’s job is to initially serve the text, the director, the theatre and out to the audience. Quite how you do that varies from project to project.

So, for example, for An Ode to my Sisters / Azma Dar I was initially employed to sift through the verbatim reports from Muslim women in Slough to come up with the right stories to make an evening in the theatre. During this process, however, it became apparent that the verbatim language of the stories did not match the physical-theatre approach of the two directors, Yasmin Gurreeboo and Lucy Bradley.

So I suggested they needed a playwright to do this. I helped interview playwrights, Azma Dar was commissioned, and she then turned the main story of the twin sisters who make radically different decisions into a play that the directors could work with using physical theatre and video.

For Die Zauberflöte / Mozart for DNO, Simon McBurney wanted to go back to the original text of the German to find out what had been lost in translation(s) over the years. With my trusty dictionary of 1898 in hand, we looked at the original text and Simon found his way/had confirmed his concept of a rougher approach to the text, less fairies, more earthy woodsmen.


I have been adapting novels since the very beginning of my career. The third ever play I translated and produced was taken from an autobiographical novel Die Galizianerin/Eva Schmidt and Brigitte Schwaiger and turned into a one woman show. The Galizian Jewess. And so it has continued. Last summer (2013) I adapted The Mammoth (Jessika Pentu) by Leea Klemola. This play by the Finnish playwright Klemola had already been translated by her English husband into a working version, I adapted it with a Scottish lilt for the Edinburgh audiences.


Presently I am working on a very exciting novel that I found in a bookshop in Cairo. It is by Scottish-Iraqi writer Betool Khedairi and is called Absent. I am working with Betool and director Svetlana Dimcovic and a whole team from Jordan to Denmark to turn this blackly-comic novel set in Iraq into a dark stage comedy about Baghdad at the end of the nineties. It is one fantastic story peopled by wonderful characters. I'll keep you posted. The working title of the play is Human Honey.