Master pieces by Shakespeare, Tang Xianzu performed at Leeds University

( Xinhua ) Updated: 2016-07-31 10:49:31

This year marks not only 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, but also that of the great Ming Dynasty playwright Tang Xianzu. Students from China and UK's universities on July 27 performed the two drama masters' works on the stage of Leeds University.

To commemorate both anniversaries, students from the University of Leeds and the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) in Beijing jointly performed Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Tang Xianzu's A Dream Under The Southern Bough, as part of the Leeds Intercultural Theater Festival.

With the two texts and the overarching theme of "dreaming," UIBE's students perform a piece inspired by the mechanical and fairies in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, while students at the University of Leeds performed a contemporary response to Tang Xianzu's A Dream Under The Southern Bough.

Both pieces are set in the same woodland location with characters and stories entwining and overlapping. Each story can be performed individually but can be only fully appreciated when combined together. The two "dreams" bring together Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu as well as Britain and China.

Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming addressed the crowd before the performance, stressing the two playwrights are considered as the "soul of the age" in the renaissance of the West and the humanist enlightenment of the East.

"This was by no means a mere historical coincidence. These two literary giants did not just happen to be Chinese and British during the same historical period. In fact, Tang and Shakespeare are the best examples to show that China and the UK are both great nations with a time-honored culture and history," Liu told the audience.

He said the show is the fruit of collaborative work of artists and students from China and Britain. "It is a creative interpretation of Shakespeare's and Tang's classic works. This ingenious re-production transcends time and culture, and brings two literary masters to the same stage," Liu said.

Professor of Chinese Theatre Studies Li Ruru from East Asian Studies at the University is one of those leading the Anglo-Chinese theatrical project.

"The project is making people think about the value and relevance of two classic plays to contemporary society and will also enhance cultural exchange between China and the UK," she said.

Steve Ansell is artistic director of the University's stage@leeds theatre. He co-wrote the new production with School of Performance and Cultural Industries colleague Dr. Adam Strickson and is also directing it.

"This is a ground-breaking project that will provide two groups, from two cultures, the opportunity to creatively explore, understand and appreciate each other's similarities and distinctions through the work of two great writers and the shared language of theatre," he said.

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