Photo of Dr Ana Martins

Dr Ana Martins

Public engagement

Remembering the translation of New Portuguese Letters to the stage: a collaborative project with Unfinished Histories: Recording the History of Alternative Theatre

Ana is building a formal relationship with a non-university organisation, Unfinished Histories: Recording the History of Alternative Theatre (Unfinished Histories). This relationship aims to identify, locate and make available to the public documents and oral testimonies from the initial UK theatre adaptations of Novas Cartas Portuguesas (New Portuguese Letters, henceforth NCP) a book published in Portugal in 1972 by Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta and Maria Velho da Costa (henceforth the Three Marias). The banning of the book by the censors of the Portuguese right-wing regime and the ensuing trial of the Three Marias led to the organisation of a massive international solidarity campaign between 1973 and 1974. During this wave of international solidarity, only fragments of the book circulated in translation (mostly French and English), and parts of it were adapted to the stage and presented in London, New York and Paris.

The partnership with Unfinished Histories, a company set up in 2006 by Susan Croft, which aims to record the history of alternative theatre 1968-88 through interviews and the collecting of archive material, will provide a unique context for tackling and recording artistic “bottom-up” techniques that were used by actresses to support the Three Marias in the UK in the 1970s. The initial outcome of this collaboration – sealing the formal partnership – will be the production of a DVD, which will be made available to the public, featuring oral testimonies, a discussion with specialists in Portuguese and British feminisms, and a historical re-staging of parts of NCP based on the original 1970s’ script. The partnership with Unfinished Histories will thus engage the general public by providing contemporary society with access to material that will foster a better understanding of how non-traditional reading habits (partial readings, or non-readings of books) influence how we listen to political transgressions and theoretical innovations.

A one day workshop took place at Exeter on 10 March, where academics, actors and a film director met to discuss instances of fragmentary readings, translations and theatrical performances of parts of New Portuguese Letters. For more information, visit the workshop's website here.