Chinese director bringing Cantonese version of Shakespeare play to UK

By BO LEUNG | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-08-03 11:12

Renowned Hong Kong theater director Tang Shu-wing is bringing his latest incarnation of William Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, which some consider to be the Bard's most violent play, to the British stage.

Chinese director bringing Cantonese version of Shakespeare play to UK

An actor performs on stage during a production of Titus Andronicus 2.0. [China Daily] 

Titus Andronicus 2.0, which will be shown at the New Diorama Theatre in London, is a stripped-back version of Tang's previous Titus plays.

A former dean at the School of Drama within the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Tang is artistic director of the Tang Shuwing Theatre Studio. He first created a dramatized version of the play in spoken Cantonese in 2008.

In 2.0, the language remains the same as the 2008 version but the production style has been transformed into a contemporary narrative and storytelling format.

With a bare stage, live music, and seven chairs, the production features seven actor-narrators, who switch between narrating the action and embodying the characters. Tang said his latest version is very much about the theater and connecting with the audience.

"Dramatic text is turned into narration," he said. "The whole idea is to prepare the text to be performed as a storytelling art form, not as a dramatic form. So, the actors switch between the two identities of narrator to character."

Tang, who has been called the "alchemist of minimalist theater", believes that a combination of physical theater and minimalist aesthetics is the best way to realize his vision.

"This work is really one of my favorite works and also one of my most important works that I treasure a lot, because I was able to go into details of the play itself and also the narration itself, as well as the actors themselves."

He explained that finding the right tone for the translation was paramount.

"We actually made the translation a midway between a very literary Cantonese and very colloquial Cantonese, so that we do not fall into either as a whole because if it's too literary, it's very difficult to digest, if it's too colloquial, it's too close to ordinary life and it is also not ideal. So, we have to find a midway between the two, and I think, after so many years of performance, we have achieved this purpose in terms of translation."

In London, the play will be performed in Cantonese, with English translations displayed above the stage.

"The first 10 minutes, the audience will have to pay special attention to the wording and the text set by the narrators, because they fold the plot by words only, so it's challenging, but after 10 minutes the action becomes faster and the acting narrator uses various ways of telling a story," said Tang.


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