Bard made rel­e­vant

The Na­tional Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts is putting up a Man­darin ver­sion of King Lear, and this work aims to make the play­wright more rel­e­vant for con­tem­po­rary au­di­ences. Chen Nan re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at chen­nan@chi­

Di­rec­tor Li Li­uyi is work­ing to make the Man­darin ver­sion of Shake­speare’s KingLear, at the Na­tional Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, mean­ing­ful for con­tem­po­rary au­di­ences.

One of Wil­liam Shake­speare’s tragedies, King Lear, is be­ing trans­lated into Man­darin for a stage pro­duc­tion, which will open in Beijing on Jan 20. The play is a pro­duc­tion by the Na­tional Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts and is part of the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany’s 10-year cul­tural ex­change pro­ject, en­ti­tled Shake­speare’s Fo­lio Trans­la­tion Pro­ject.

In Novem­ber, the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany col­lab­o­rated with the Shang­hai Dra­matic Arts Cen­ter on a new Chi­nese pro­duc­tion of

Henry V, which kicked off this lat­est trans­la­tion pro­ject.

For the King Lear pro­duc­tion, Chi­nese di­rec­tor Li Li­uyi is work­ing on the script, which is based on Daniel S.P. Yang’s trans­la­tion of King Lear. Li has also read seven other Chi­nese trans­la­tions for ref­er­ence, in­clud­ing the ver­sions of Zhu Sheng­hao (1912-44) and Bian Zhilin (1910-2000).

Ac­cord­ing to Weng Shi­hui, the pro­ject man­ager of the Shake­speare’s Fo­lio Trans­la­tion Pro­ject, the lat­est trans­la­tion is for the stage adap­ta­tion of the play, and a large part of the trans­la­tion has been done dur­ing the re­hearsals.

“Au­di­ences here are fa­mil­iar with Shake­speare be­cause his plays have been trans­lated by many schol­ars and have been staged many times in China,” Li says.

“But many of the trans­la­tions and adap­ta­tions do not por­tray the char­ac­ters’ in­ner­most thoughts.

“What I want to do with this play is to make Shake­speare ac­ces­si­ble and easy to com­pre­hend for Chi­nese au­di­ences.”

Li, a Chi­nese di­rec­tor and play­wright of t he Beijing Peo­ple’s Art Theater, has been to the United King­dom twice to visit the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany — mainly to dis­cuss the script with Shake­speare ex­perts.

He says that his vis­its made him re­al­ize that, for the stage adap­ta­tion, it is im­por­tant to trans­late Shake­speare’s plays with­out too much po­etic and lit­er­ary dec­o­ra­tion.

Ex­plain­ing his mo­ti­va­tion for do­ing the play, he says: “This year marks the 400 th an­niver­sary of t he Bard’s death, as well as that of Chi­nese play­wright Tang Xianzu. We are cel­e­brat­ing th­ese two great play­wrights. But, how do we make their works rel­e­vant for con­tem­po­rary au­di­ences? That’s a ques­tion I want to an­swer with this play.”

Pu Cunxin, a Chi­nese ac­tor and the deputy di­rec­tor of the Beijing Peo­ple’s Arts Theater, plays King Lear, while ac­tresses Lu Fang, Zhao Qian and Wan Qian­hui play the king’s three daugh­ters.

Speak­ing about his role, Pu, 63, says: “It’s a won­der­ful chal­lenge for ac­tors to do a pro­found tragedy like King Lear, and it is ex­cit­ing for the au­di­ence to see how they tackle the script, which is from an­other ti me and an­other cul­ture.

“I have al­ways dreamed about do­ing a role like this. With my ex­pe­ri­ence, it is per­fect tim­ing for me to play King Lear.”

Mean­while, di­rec­tor Li has also i nvited Ja­panese cos­tume de­signer Emi Wada to work on King Lear.

Wada, 79, has worked with some of the great­est Ja­panese and in­ter­na­tional direc­tors in film, opera and dance. She has also worked in Chi­nese projects, such as Chi­nese di­rec­tor Zhang Yi­mou’s films — Hero in 2002 and

House of Fly­ing Dag­gers in 2004 — com­poser Tan Dun’s opera, The First Em­peror, and dancer-chore­og­ra­pher Fei Bo’s bal­let piece, The Peony Pav­il­ion.

She is also known for her Academy Award-win­ning cos­tumes for Akira Kuro­sawa’s Ran in 1986, which was in­spired by Shake­speare’s

King Lear.

Sound­ing very en­thu­si­as­tic about her as­so­ci­a­tion with the pro­ject, she says: “I love Shake­speare’s works and I want to do cos­tumes for all of his works.

“But what I care most about in a pro­ject is whether I can try some­thing new. I have done cos­tumes for King Lear, but I think this Chi­nese play will be the best of my King Lear projects.”

She says that all the cos­tumes for the play are hand­made, in­clud­ing the em­broi­dery.

What I want to do with this play is to make Shake­speare ac­ces­si­ble and easy to com­pre­hend for Chi­nese au­di­ences.” Li Li­uyi, di­rec­tor of KingLear

Ja­panese cos­tume de­signer

Emi Wada says the Chi­nese adap­ta­tion will be the best of her KingLear projects.


Pu Cunxin will play the role of King Lear, which he says is a dream come true.

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