RSC takes Shakespeare to China

By Martin Chilton for the Telegraph, 30 December 2015

William Shakespeare, once banned and denounced under Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, will gain a new Chinese audience in 2016 when the Royal Shakespeare Company embarks on its first major tour of China.

Shakespeare’s works were banned in China from 1964 to 1977 and the playwright was denounced as “revisionist, feudalist and capitalist” and now productions of his plays were allowed. But next year, to mark 400 years since the Bard’s death, the RSC will take productions of Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II and Henry V to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong in February and March.

Shakespeare is now widely taught in Chinese universities and The Shakespeare Folio Project, a decade-long project to translate Shakespeare’s works into Chinese, has begun its pilot phase, working with Chinese translators, writers and theatre producers. “The audience will be sitting on the edge of their seats, genuinely wanting to know what happens next,” said Joseph Graves, artistic director of Beijing’s University’s Institute of World Theatre and Film.

Alex Hassell,  who plays the lead role in the production of Henry V presently playing at London’s Barbican Centre, said he was excited at the prospect of performing the play in a context “untethered from its theatrical history”.

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