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Shashibiya: Staging Shakespeare in China

Li Ruru
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Shashibiya is an intriguing discussion of the levels of 'filtering' that any Shakespeare performance in China undergoes, and a close examination of how these filters reflect the continually-changing political, social and cultural practices. The study traces the history of Shakespeare performance in China over the past hundred years, focussing in detail on eleven productions in mainstream, operatic and experimental forms in the post-Mao era. Li Ruru's intimate knowledge of her subject makes this the most up-to-date research available on staging Shakespeare in China.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-275-7
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction From Three Photographs . . .
    (pp. 1-10)

    An early autumn sunset in 1980 in Beijing. The cool breeze was blowing away the day’s heat, but the street was still warm with bustling crowds in front of the auditorium of the China Youth Art Theatre. Amid shouts from some asking if anyone had spare tickets and street-corner scalpers dealing in black market tickets, those people lucky enough to have admission were eagerly taking their seats for The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare plays had not been seen on the Beijing stage since 1961. Though it was four years since the Cultural Revolution had ended with the death of Mao,...

  6. 1 Shakespeare in China: Between His First ‘Arrival’ and the Cultural Revolution
    (pp. 11-52)

    The following table shows an extract from a literal translation back into English of a 1904 Chinese version of Othello — Black General (Heidu) in the left column. The original Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb is placed next to the Chinese version for comparison. The Lambs’ book, translated by Lin Shu, gave the Chinese reading public their only version of Shakespeare for almost two decades until the first full translation of a Shakespeare play became available in 1922. It was also the basis on which twenty or so stage productions were performed during the 1910s.

    Translating Tales was...

  7. 2 Orthodox Presentations in Chinese Eyes: Much Ado About Nothing (1957, revival: 1961 & 1979) and Macbeth (1980)
    (pp. 53-82)

    In the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, the fact that Shakespeare had been eulogized by Marx and Engels encouraged Chinese practitioners to use his plays in testing the safety of staging Western masterpieces. This chapter examines two productions performed in 1979 and 1980 in the style of huaju, the theatrical form that most Chinese Shakespeare performances have employed. As discussed in Chapter 1, the model performances directed by the Soviet experts who visited China in the 1950s had an enormous impact on the Chinese staging of Shakespeare over the following forty years. The analysis of Much Ado About Nothing will...

  8. 3 Rebels Against the Classics: Hamlet (1989, 1990 & 1994) and Othello (1994)
    (pp. 83-108)

    The development of Shakespeare performance in huaju during the 1990s will be investigated through the analysis of two productions: Hamlet and Othello. As discussed in Chapter 1, the story of staging Shakespeare in China is intricately Hnked with Chinese society and Chinese people. The following anecdotes may help to illustrate the context for this chapter.

    In late 1989, a young man turned up on his sister’s doorstep in Xi’an. The sister was surprised to see her younger brother during term time for he was studying at one of the most prestigious universities in Beijing. The young man had been...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. 4 The Chinese Faces of Shakespeare: Blood-stained Hands (Xie shou ji)/Macbeth (1986) Looking for Trouble (Wushishengfei)/ Much Ado About Nothing (1986) The Prince’s Revenge (Wangzi fuchou ji)/Hamlet (1994)
    (pp. 109-160)

    So far we have considered four huaju Shakespeare productions.Huaju, or spoken drama, as an imported theatrical form, has been taken as the legitimate vehicle for Shakespeare on the Chinese stage. Yet Shakespeare has also been turned into traditional Chinese music theatre with its aria singing, dance, mime and acrobatics. So are these versions Shakespeare or Chinese theatre? The sinifiers differ in their approach. Some adapters quarry their raw materials from Shakespeare on which they create Chinese stories with Chinese characters. Others follow certain spoken drama conventions, with people pretending to be Westerners and telling the story in a Western way....

  11. 5 Keeping Shakespeare in the ‘Original Sauce’: Twelfth Night (Di shi’er ye, 1986) and Othello (Aosailuo, 1983, 1986 & 1987)
    (pp. 161-196)

    The garden scene from a 1986 Chinese production of Twelfth Night is depicted in Figure 10. Leaning against the fountain is Malvolio, the ‘rare turkey-cock’ (II v 30-31), who is engrossed in the forged letter and enthusiastically falling for the scheme hatched against him. In the performance, his right foot wiggled smugly in its shiny leather shoe to show his self-satisfaction. Maria, Sir Toby and Sir Andrew (Fabian was dropped from this version) are mischievously peeping out behind ‘trees’ — represented by an abstract set of white columns — to see how Malvolio is indulging his bombastic daydreams. Everyone wears a wig...

  12. 6 Another Dimension in Intercultural Shakespeare: An English/Chinese Macbeth (1994) and A Taiwan/Mainland Shamlet (a Parody of Hamlet, 1994)
    (pp. 197-222)

    I still remember vividly the following incident from our rehearsal of Macbeth in The Workshop Theatre, University of Leeds in 1994. With the support of the British Council, the production was to be taken to the Shanghai International Shakespeare Festival in September of that year. Instead of a ‘simple’ or ‘straightforward’ cross- cultural/intercultural production like those discussed in previous chapters, this was more complicated because it involved a Chinese director, David Jiang (Jiang Weiguo whose huangmeixi Much Ado was discussed in Chapter 4), with a British stage designer and British performers (apart from one — myself). It was performed in English...

  13. Conclusion Old Man Sha: Dead or Sleeping?
    (pp. 223-230)

    It has been about a hundred years since Shakespeare was first staged in China. In the intercultural transformation illustrated by the diagram in Chapter 4, a translator or adapter has first of all to formulate a Chinese version of a Shakespeare play, and then the script is interpreted, and in turn reinterpreted, by directors, stage designers and performers. Finally it is presented in front of a Chinese audience. All involved bring their own personal and societal history as well as a shared cultural legacy to the particular work. Shakespeare in China is therefore as much a story about China as...

  14. Appendix 1 A Chronology of Shakespeare Performances in China
    (pp. 231-240)
  15. Appendix 2 Dramatis Personae and Role Types of Five Sinified Productions
    (pp. 241-244)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 245-268)
  17. Glossary
    (pp. 269-284)
  18. References
    (pp. 285-296)
  19. Index
    (pp. 297-306)