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Theatr Genedlaethol plans rollout of Sibrwd translation app

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru's production of Dawns Ysbrydion, which used the translation app. Photo: Kirsten McTernan Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru's production of Dawns Ysbrydion, which used the translation app. Photo: Kirsten McTernan
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Welsh-language company Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru has revealed plans to roll out a new translation app across the theatre sector.

The technology, called Sibrwd, allows English-speaking audiences to hear translated speech, either through an earpiece or as text that is sent to smartphones or tablets during the performance.

However, the company said it could also be used as an access tool for hearing impaired audiences, who are able to read a performance’s text on a mobile device.

The app has been specially developed for the company, which has been using it in all its productions since May, and has found up to 20% of audiences are listening via the app during shows.

Artistic director Arwel Gruffydd said: “There are instances where we have had 20% of the audience using Sibrwd, thus implying that 20% of the audience do not speak Welsh and have only been given access to the dialogue as a result of our app, which is really great.”

He added: “We needed to grow our audiences for those who didn’t speak the language, which is why we developed the app, but as a consequence we realised it has access potential beyond language. There are all manner of ingenious ways we can use and adapt this technology.”

Gruffydd said “there was a great debate” within the sector about the use of mobile devices in theatre performances.

“I suppose we have taken the opinion that rather than asking people not to bring their devices, we have tried to legitimise their use by making them constructive and appropriate,” he said.

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru will launch Sibrwd as a commercial venture within the next year, and Gruffydd said he hoped the technology would allow the company to work with partners across the arts to develop new ways of using it.

The app will be used in the company’s production of Chwalfa, which is due to run at Bangor’s new arts centre Pontio in February.

The production was originally scheduled to open the venue’s Bryn Terfel Theatre in September 2014, however lengthy construction delays pushed the opening back until November this year.