Carys Eleri describes the daunting but hilarious task of creating a Welsh-language adaptation of her science-comedy-musical Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff) – including the song Tit Montage – and rehearsing both versions ahead of her Wales-wide tour this Autumn.
I’m currently on course to finishing week two of rehearsals for the Welsh language version of ‘Lovecraft (Not the sex shop in Cardiff)’ which is called ‘Cer I grafu… sori… GARU!’
This journey is fascinating, INCREDIBLY challenging and absolutely hilarious. Singing about tits in Welsh alone is a joyous thing and it’s fascinating how naughtier a thing to do it is in Welsh. If you speak both spokes, get your butt on a seat twice! Also, as a learner, I think it may be a valuable thing for you to see bilingualism at work, which may give you more confidence to speak bilingually too and not put as much pressure on your Welsh being ‘perfect’.
When I went to write Lovecraft (Not the sex shop in Cardiff), I wanted to simplify all this scientific knowledge that I’d gained, condense all of these books and conversations I’d had into an incredibly fun and simply layered comedic piece that you could digest so easily that you’d actually be having a shit-tonne of fun (no pun intended). Sharing all this scientific knowledge about love was always my main goal. By now, a year and a half since the first staging of Lovecraft – my task is to and translate the show into a language which, if used absolutely correctly – is very poetic and therefore can risk the whole production to now appear complicated which then becomes alienating to many.
Yes, I can write well in Welsh and yes, I could make this a floral feast, stuffed so far up my own arse I’d never need to buy a can of air-freshener for my loo again. But that would destroy the magic that I sought to create in the first place, so there has been a golden rule implied by myself and underlined by my wonderful friend and dramaturg Daf James, which is to embrace my bilingual nature and life. If the translation of a particular line isn’t better than the original – stick to English. I must interrogate each line that’s just ‘ok’ until it’s as good or preferably, better than the original. Otherwise the job itself isn’t satisfying at all. And I want to enjoy the whole process…
Coming out the other end, having been translating the piece for a few months now – I am confident that ‘Cer I Grafu.. Sori…GARU!’ is a show in its own right, and of course – as it’s now in my mother tongue – it only makes it more personal. The naughty bits are way naughtier and cheekier, because Welsh as a language is so sweet and kind and not at all brash, unkind and for me at least – not sexy! So, talking about this stuff in Welsh really is making it brutally honest. Welsh doesn’t really have any swear-words at all – in fact the only way I can think of that we tell people to ‘fuck off’ is what I have used as the title for the show which is ‘Cer I grafu….!’ Cer I grafu literally means ‘go to itch’. That’s as harsh as we get guys – like ancient druids wishing a disease on a particularly toxic intruder of our lands. And then of course, in the show’s full title I then correct myself by saying ‘sori… GARU’, which means that people should ‘go to LOVE!’ instead.
Completely changing the title of the show was important for me for many reasons. The practical one being so there would be no confusion about which show you’d be buying a ticket for, also – rhythmically, calling the show ‘Lovecraft (Nid y sex shop yng Nghaerdydd)’ just didn’t work, it’s not as punchy and it demands a nasal mutation for god sake! So instead of working against it, the best thing was to start afresh and ask questions such as ‘what lead me to call it ‘Lovecraft (not the sex sop in Cardiff)’ in the first place?’ ‘What is the main message of the show?’ Once I answered those questions, I was immediately back at the drawing board doodling away with joy and giggling my arse off because I knew I’d be causing mayhem in the Marketing/Copy department once more with my mad grammar choices… ‘I’m a grammar-anarchist! Who knew?!’
But predominantly – ‘Cer I grafu.. sori…GARU’ is an adaptation, not just a translation, now there is a whole new layer of welsh language culture that I can weave into the show that I just could not do with a show that goes to the other side of the world. People in Australia or Edinburgh do not watch S4C and would have no idea that I have been on screen for 3 years playing a lead character as a vicar in a show called ‘Parch’. The odds are higher with this audience, so now I can pop those references in… Plus I get to play around with loads of Welsh language-Welsh accents which is something I always loved doing.
But, ultimately – my golden rule for both versions has been ‘Does it make me laugh so much that I look like a twat for laughing at my own jokes?’ If so, those words are keepers. Let’s just now hope that my brain holds up for the all the intense learning it has to do and to deliver back to back Welsh and English on tour too – rapping identical songs in different languages daily is definitely insane…. Sometimes I really do feel like a small rugby team. And their coach… I can do this!!
You can find out more about this tour here.