Latest on UK and China collaborations

Reporter: Mary Mazzilli

Dateline: 23rd September, 2016

Latest on UK and China collaborations

Events this year in UK and across the Globe have seen the celebration of 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

1616 was also the death of China’s most celebrated playwright, and the latest event to mark the occasion is the collaboration of British and Chinese theatre practitioners Ke Jun and Leon Rubin. The event now running at The Actor’s Church in Covent Garden, A Shakespearean Handan Dream, is the result of a six-year collaboration.

Ke Jun is an award-winning Kunqu performer and a foremost transmitter of the martial male-role acting tradition. Ke is currently artistic director of the Jiangsu Performing Arts Group, China’s largest performing arts company, and a key practitioner of "New-concept Kunqu", a school that sees this historic performance art as both traditional and avant-garde.

He stars and co-directs this production of A Shakespearean Handan Dream together with Leon Rubin, who began his career as Assistant Director at the Royal Shakespeare Company and has been Artistic Director of three major UK theatre companies: Bristol Old Vic, Watford Palace and the Lyric Belfast.

In this production, Shakespearean characters such as King Lear and Macbeth enter the world of Lu Sheng’s existential dream, expertly delivered by a mixed cast of Chinese and British performers including Jonathan Firth and Li Hongliang.

Concluded only over a month ago, the Edinburgh Fringe 2016 had shown similar theatrical events and encounters between China and Shakespeare.

Award-winning Chinese director Wang Xiaoying, known for his critically acclaimed production of Richard III at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2012, returned to the UK, adapting one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, Romeo and Juliet, retold in traditional Kunqu opera style by the Hunan troupe. As one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera, Kunqu pre-dates Shakespeare’s play by around 200 years and on this occasion has added to Shakespeare’s poetic language the gracefulness and the picturesqueness of Kunqu melodies.

In a cross-cultural production, stage@leedscompany presented the first theatrical adaptation of Tang Xianzu’s influential work Dreaming Under the Southern Bough in a dynamic, contemporary reinterpretation, which follows the story of one man’s search for enlightenment in the kingdom of the ants.

With Gecko theatre company working in partnership with the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre for their new piece The Dreamer (this will première at SDAC on Friday 7 October 2016) there are more collaborations to expect between UK and China in the performing arts.