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Sax man's Cervantes translation creates a great diversion

PUBLISHED: 13:41 25 April 2007 | UPDATED: 14:31 07 September 2010

By Marijke Peters THE English premiere of a Spanish comedy of errors won t be lost in translation, thanks to the impressive efforts of a Crouch End senor. John O Neill, from South View Road, has spent the last two years translating Miguel Cervantes class

By Marijke Peters

THE English premiere of a Spanish comedy of errors won't be lost in translation, thanks to the impressive efforts of a Crouch End senor.

John O'Neill, from South View Road, has spent the last two years translating Miguel Cervantes' classic tale La Entretenida - the Diversion - about a case of mistaken identity in 17th century Madrid.

The play is to be performed by a cast composed of local actors in King's College London at the beginning of May.

Mr O'Neill, who only started learning Spanish in 1999, said: "You think people would have covered every area of Cervantes' work but I discovered that the majority of his writings aren't available in English, which is extraordinary.

"Everyone focuses on Don Quixote but there's much more to him than that, and I felt incredibly privileged to be doing this, I was stepping on virgin snow."

Mr O'Neill is a professional sax player and first fell in love with the language during a musical trip to Murcia in 1999.

Since then he has completed a Spanish Master's degree and is currently doing a PhD at King's College.

He decided to tackle the translation of La Entretenida after watching a season of plays by the Royal Shakespeare Company on the Spanish golden age.

The comic element of the story gave Mr O'Neill a chance to play around with the characters.

He said: "I wanted to create a sense of a metropolis, with people speaking differently, so I've referenced the regional flavour of the play by having servants with Welsh and Mancunian accents.

"There were puns that were very difficult to translate so I invented similar world plays in English, but tried to stay true to the original text."

King's College research fellow Dave McGrath said: "It's an ambitious and innovative project from a PhD student. A marvellous, free flowing translation that really reflects the ebb and flow of life in 17th century Madrid."

There will be a read-through at King's College on May 4 and 5 and Mr O'Neill hopes it will attract the interest of a professional theatre company.

He said: "My ideal would be to do a production but it's incredibly difficult so we'll do a stage reading to show the play.

"It's been an amazing experience. Hopefully a company will see it and decide to perform it in England. That would be my dream."

broadway@hamhigh.co.uk

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