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When East meets West on the stage: Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu
2016-09-23 来源:ChinaDaily

A Midsummer Night's DREAMING Under the Southern Bough made a splash in Beijing Tuesday. Students from the University of Leeds performed a contemporary adaptation based on the Chinese ancient play Nanke Ji. [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/ China Daily]

William Shakespeare, the renowned British playwright whose dramas are known across the world; and Tang Xianzu, the famed ancient Chinese opera writer with his works passed on through generations. What happens when the masterpieces of these two are put together?

A cross-cultural drama project "Shakespeare-Tang project: Celebrating a 400 year legacy", which made a splash in Beijing Tuesday evening, answers just that. 

The project, held by the University of Leeds in the UK and the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) in China, brings a new artistic creation "A Midsummer Night's DREAMING Under the Southern Bough" onto the stage, connecting Shakespeare's classic A Midsummer Night's Dream and Tang Xianzu's Nanke Ji in a unique way, to mark the 400th anniversary of the deaths of the two legendary playwrights.

A Midsummer Night's DREAMING Under the Southern Bough made a splash in Beijing Tuesday. Students from the University of Leeds performed a contemporary adaptation based on the Chinese ancient play Nanke Ji. [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/ China Daily]

The performance, consisting of two plays performed by student groups from two universities, is inspired by the common element of the two original texts -- "dream". In the adaptation, the UIBE team has changed the location of Shakespeare's A Midsummer from woods near Athens to a Chinese milieu, with new modern plots that reflect Chinese young people's lives and that question the nature of love. Meanwhile, the production team from the University of Leeds has redesigned the original plots of Tang Xianzu's Nanke Ji opera without damaging its story flame and theme, creating a contemporary response to the Chinese classic play.

"We've made many changes during the production of the new play," said Li Ruru, curator and producer of the project and professor of Chinese Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds , "and the hardest part is to tell a complete story within just one hour". That’s despite complexity in the original drama and huge cultural differences.

Amazingly, this new version just made it all happen, by making the play easily understandable to people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, yet still preserving the original philosophical theme and depth.

A Midsummer Night's DREAMING Under the Southern Bough made a splash in Beijing Tuesday. Students from the  University of Leeds performed a contemporary adaptation based on the Chinese ancient play Nanke Ji. [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/ China Daily]

"We are not singing that much (as the original opera) and we speak in English in the contemporary version," said George Clifford, who plays the male protagonist Chun Yu in the Southern Bough story. "I think one of the biggest changes is to get across time and literary excellence in the English format without trying to sound like Shakespeare."

Milly Stell, a student from the University of Leeds who plays the female protagonist, said the humanity lying behind the ancient opera was universal.

"I feel like the emotions even back then in the ancient original (opera) are still really understandable to us now. Everything that happens on stage is completely relatable to everyone who is watching," Stell said.

A Midsummer Night's DREAMING Under the Southern Bough made a splash in Beijing Tuesday. Students from the  University of Leeds performed a contemporary adaptation based on Chinese ancient play Nanke Ji. [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/ China Daily]

Liam Ashmore, the play's second leading male role, agreed. He said the play tells people not to be greedy. "We really think that everyone is an ant in this community (just like the play), but we sometimes needs to step out of this human world and not to be drowned up by things like gold and money."

Tang Xianzu (AD1550-1616) was one of the most well-known Chinese play writers during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1662) and one of his operas Nanke Ji tells a man's dream where he becomes the husband of a princess of the ant kingdom.

A Midsummer Night's DREAMING Under the Southern Bough made a splash in Beijing Tuesday. Students from UIBE performed a contemporary adaptation based on British classic play A Midsummer Night's Dream . [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/ China Daily]

A Midsummer Night's DREAMING Under the Southern Bough made a splash in Beijing Tuesday. Students from UIBE performed a contemporary adaptation based on British classic play A Midsummer Night's Dream . [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/ China Daily]

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