Performing Arts: Theater
March 20, 2014
On March 26 through March 30, the Skirball Center at NYU will be hosting the National Theatre of China’s US debut. The production will be Shakespeare’s Richard III. The show, directed by Wang Xiaoying, has played to great acclaim both in Beijing and London. Translated into Mandarin and performed with traditional Chinese music, costumes, props, masks, and wigs, the production promises to be an exciting part of the Skirball’s “Visions + Voices Global Performance Series”.

I was offered the opportunity to ask questions Mr. Wang questions about the upcoming production. While we weren’t able to meet in person, I was able to send them by email. Reprinted below are my questions and Mr. Wang’s answers.

1. Why Richard III over other Shakespearean plays?
For the the London Globe Theatre "GLOBE to GLOBE" Festival, thirty-six different theatre groups all participated in consultation with the Globe Theatre repertoire. They recommended to me, among others, "Richard III", which is one of the most frequently staged Shakespeare plays, so I felt there is a strong possibility for communication with modern society, so this is why I chose it.

2. What was the most challenging part of directing this show?
I do not want to use the disabled image / interpretation of Richard III that everyone is already so familiar with. I want to use a Chinese style “yin-yang” this binary concept to express the outer and inner extremes, and how this conflict creates the ugly distorted image. This is how from Richard III I find my understanding of the relationship between universal human desires and true evil. This is the unique characteristic of our production.
"Richard III" is one of Shakespeare's longest plays, I want to cut nearly half of the lines, while keeping the basic drama of Shakespeare's original plot and characters, it took me a lot of effort.

3. What prompted the decision to use traditional theatrical props, wigs, costumes, and musical instruments in this production?
I want to use the traditional Chinese way to express drama, but the script does not change the story plot to China, the two have opposition, but also need to be unified, so that it can be both traditional and modern. I tried to use China's clothing, headpieces, props, music, especially Chinese-style percussion, and of course there are a lot of Chinese traditional opera performances, with the Chinese way of telling a story of Shakespeare, showing the universality and humanity in Shakespeare. 4. What about Shakespeare’s work speaks to modern audiences?
My Chinese version of "Richard III" is trying to convey the core meaning: "Any person in reality, when he is under the control of his heart’s desire and ambition, and he tries to use extraordinary measures to achieve this desire and ambition, then he has already started to come close to Richard III." I think this is Shakespeare's intended message.

5. Shakespeare’s work switches between verse and prose, which are often indicators of class and status for characters. How did you address this in translating the work into Mandarin?
Chinese traditional opera also has a style similar to the difference between the language of verse and prose, this is not difficult for us.

6. The show has toured from China to London and now New York. Has there been a difference in audience reception from country to country?
London audiences expressed their enthusiasm during the show with laughter and applause throughout. The Chinese audience during the show are more focused like watching a movie and enjoy the curtain call as the opportunity to express their love for the show, rather than during it like London audiences. I do not know how the New York audience will interact with us during the performances.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Kelly Johnston

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