Theaters are fantastic things that create a sense of culture and trust in a place that may be entirely new to you. What happens when you don’t understand the language? Unlike operas or a ballet, in theater it’s important to understand the communication. The inability to understand the language may push some away, and with great reason.
What if there could be a way to understand the play without having to learn the language? Just like having a interpreter at your side, only less personal. An app for your phone called Sibrwd meaning Whisper in Welsh, can do just this.
Sibrwd was created by the Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru. According to Carys Ifan, executive produce, said it once used subtitles, but quit due to the inability to fulfill the experience. Recently, Sibrwd was changed from text to whispers used by earphones.
“The idea is that people will take their own smartphone, download the app and they’ll hear things that we think they need to know to guide them through the play.” Ifan said.
Admittedly, it’s not a full interpretation. Some of the smaller, quicker lines are unable to interpret for the theater-goer during key moments, but Sibrwd is better than what is available already. This is a huge step for theater and may help amplify its popularity in certain parts of the world, like the U.S.
Nesta highlighted the app in one their reports. In the short paper wrote on http://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/new-art-finance-making-money-work-harder-arts it states:
“Only 19 per cent of people in Wales speak Welsh — something that can make it difficult for theater companies producing work in this language to attract potential audiences. As a response to this, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru and Galactig have developed an app called Sibrwd…”
According to BBC news, Sibrwd will be tested during next week at the National Eisteddfod of Wales for the performances of Dyled Eileen, a personal story about Eileen Beasley on the Welsh campaign in the 1950’s.
Then in September, it will be put into full use for the first time with the play called Chwalfa in Bangor, Gwynedd.
Hasan Bakhshi, Nesta’s director of creative economy, stressed that the app would not just be tied to the Welsh language. The app is meant to “overcome language barriers in the theater.”
To prove this, Sibrwd will be taken to a conference of minority European languages in Germany in October.