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Carys Eleri, writer and performer of Lovecraft (Not the sex shop in Cardiff) and Cer i Garu...sori...GARU

Making language sexy

We recently caught up with Carys Eleri to find out more about the process of adapting her award-winning show Lovecraft (Not the sex shop in Cardiff) to Welsh…

Can you describe the process of adapting Lovecraft (Not the sex shop in Cardiff)?

It was really interesting. I didn't just go to my laptop and start translating the show word for word, that never works...

Just like the original English show, I began by thinking what do I want to say, then saying it aloud, recording it on my phone, taking a break, going for a walk and then coming back to transcribe it.

Writing and performing comedy are two very different skills - so much of what's funny in a comedy is in the way it's delivered. So it was important to begin by saying the words out loud and that's been my process with both versions.

I did a scratch performance of the show at Tafwyl earlier this year which was incredibly useful, because at that point, whilst I'd translated eight out of ten of the songs, I hadn't developed the script, so I did a lot of translating on the spot.

It was a lot of fun, and useful to see what people found funny and what worked well. It was at this point that I brought in Daf James to work with me as dramaturg on the project and he's been brilliant.

How did you go about translating some of those unique lines and names from English to Welsh?

I began by considering whether I really needed to translate everything because some things like 'Magic Taxi' work so well in English.

I was afraid of translating some things and finding that they just didn't work so well in Welsh. So Daf and I agreed on a rule that if something works just as well in Welsh, then go ahead and translate, but if it's not as good, then stick to the English. We aimed to better the original wherever possible.

I've only translated one of the scientific terms fully - Memory Fade Bias. Most of the other scientific terms that come up are actually Latin or Greek, and interestingly, the way we pronounce these words in Welsh is closer to how they sound in their original language.

I've kept the show fairly bilingual, to reflect how I speak naturally. I don't speak perfect Welsh, I'm bilingual, so I tend to switch between languages depending on what I'm talking about.

The English version of the show takes pretty complicated science and breaks it down to make something fun and entertaining, so the last thing I wanted to do - when adapting it to Welsh - was to use complicated Welsh. I wanted it to reflect how I speak, and not alienate people.

Is the Welsh language sexy?

Unfortunately, no it's not sexy! I did consider using the Welsh 'Bron Fontage' for ‘Tit Montage’, but that sounded almost poetic, it just didn't have the same impact.

The English language is pretty direct and punchy, while Welsh can be very flowery and is generally softer. So I kept ‘Tit Montage’. Where the Welsh worked better, I went with that, and sometimes I stuck with the English.

Is there anything new to look out for in the Welsh-language adaptation?

With this adaptation I've been able to include a new layer of stuff from Welsh-language culture. So, I can mention Parch for example. Parch was a series on S4C in which I played the lead character. The show and that character will be familiar to Welsh-speaking audiences. This new layer has been interesting to incorporate.

What were the challenges?

One of the main challenges is the mental stamina needed to perform the show. My brain is jam-packed full of words. The process of learning Cer i Grafu...sori...GARU is much like learning a new language on an intensive week-long course. It's just so intense!

Another challenge has been the pacing. It's so tempting to dash through the show at speed, but I must be mindful to slow down and enjoy delivering every word - after all, I've worked hard on selecting each one.

What's next for Carys Eleri?

Well, I recently co-hosted Jonathan, which was great fun, and I'm preparing to film a documentary about the dating habits of Welsh people, which is great.

Through this programme I've met some really cool people. I'll be filming it during the tour and it will be broadcast next year, around the time of Santes Dwynwen Day.

Lovecraft and now Cer i Grafu…sori…Garu have really opened lots of doors for me. It's portrayed me in a different way and after working on dramas for many years, people are suddenly seeing me in a new way, which is really interesting.

Cer i grafu…sori…Garu and Lovecraft (Not the sex shop in Cardiff) are on tour across Wales from 19 October, and come to Wales Millennium Centre from 28-30 November.