smartphoneTheatr Genedlaethol Cymru, a Welsh theatre company, is launching an app that will translate key elements of a performance into English for the benefit of the audience. The app has been designed to enable smartphone users who do not speak Welsh to follow key elements of the production, thus ultimately widening their spectrum of patrons. The app, named Sibrwd, meaning whisper in Welsh, has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Arts Council Wales and the Nesta charity.

Currently, subtitling, surtitling and captioning are commonplace during operas and theatre performances where the spoken or sung languages are Italian or French. These are usually shown above the play itself, scrolling in time with spoken dialogue on a screen. Less traditional methods have also included the AirScript, a technology designed by Cambridge Consultants in 2009, which scrolled through captions on a handheld tablet device in several different languages. The Sibrwd app could potentially start replacing these former methods as Carys Ifan, executive producer at Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, states that “we’re looking definitely towards the international market”. However, whether or not the app will be fully automated, a certain advantage over its predecessors, remains unclear.

The Sibrwd app will be tested at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, (for more information, read our blog post here), which starts on Saturday 2nd August. Fittingly, it will be during the performance of ‘Dyles Eileen’, a play based on the Welsh language campaigner, Eileen Beasley.

The app will then have its official debut in September with the play ‘Chwalfa’ in Bangor, Gwynedd.

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