Confucius Institute at the University of Sheffield’s “1616: Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu” Theatre Festival concludes
On November 29th (local time), the “1616: Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu” Theatre Festival, hosted by the Confucius Institute at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, and co-sponsored by the Shanghai Theatre Academy, concluded at the University of Sheffield Theatre Workshop.
The theatre festival began with a performance of Meeting at the Pavilion by CI students Thomas and Danielle on September 24th, at the opening ceremony of the Pujiang Innovation Forum, held for political leaders from China and the UK. Throughout the following two months, the CI teachers and students held a variety of special events, including talks, children’s performances, Beijing opera workshops and the theatre exhibitions, attracting over 1,400 people to participate in and experience the activities.
Theatre exhibition: “Peony Pavilion in China”
Theatre exhibition: “Shakespeare in Shanghai”
One of the most important segments of the theatre festival was the first “Shakespeare – Tang Xianzu” English-Chinese Theatre Competition. After rigorous screening of outstanding works from post-secondary institutions throughout all of the UK, four finalists were chosen: Court by Clair’s team from the University of Bath; Peace by the London and Manchester united team; Yellow Robe by Chinese students at the University of Sheffield; and Juliet and Romeo by School of East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield. After the final round, the University of Bath students’ Court was announced as the winner at the closing ceremony.
Photo of Juliet and Romeo by School of East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield
The Chinese students’ Yellow Robe was also highly commendable. The piece told the story of Zhao Kuangyin’s mutiny at Chenqiao and his subsequent succession as Emperor. The students combined the story with the familiar one of Macbeth, and while remaining faithful to Shakespearean analysis of human nature, they also used traditional Chinese theatre storytelling methods to restructure the plot, revealing various differences and similarities between Chinese and Western cultures. The students’ traditional Chinese garb captivated the audience, winning them the “Best Costumes” award. In addition, Juliet and Romeo won the “Outstanding Contribution to China-UK Cultural Exchange” award, while the “Best Performer” title went to Grace for her performance in Yellow Robe.
At the closing ceremony of the theatre festival
Jacqueline Labbe giving a speech
At the closing ceremony of the theatre festival, the group and individual prizes for the competition were awarded by Deputy Mayor of Sheffield Anne Murphy, University of Sheffield Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Labbe, University of Sheffield Shakespeare expert Tom Rutter, and Shanghai Theatre Academy writer Prof. Wang Bonan. In her speech, Jacqueline Labbe introduced the series of theatre festival events that the Confucius Institute had held over the past six months, and highly praised the CI for its role as a link and bridge for promoting cultural exchange between China and the UK.
Group photo of the group prize winners and special guests
The students and teachers from the Shanghai Theatre Academy prepared a special show for the closing ceremony, Juliet Returns, adapted from classic works of the two playwrights. In the story, after Juliet passes away in Italy, she returns to the world of the living to seek love, taking the form of Du Liniang, resulting in a series of misadventures that are at times humourous and at times moving. Many UK viewers expressed that the performers’ vivid interpretations, powerful lyrics and graceful movements increased their interest in Chinese theatre, and that they were greatly looking forward to having a chance to visit China and experience more Chinese theatre in its original form there.
Photo from Juliet Returns
The year 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the deaths of both William Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu. The “1616: Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu” theatre festival has deepened the understanding of people from China and the UK toward these two great playwrights, so as to create a bridge of mutual understanding and learning for intercultural exchange between the two countries.
Text: Zhang Fengyong, Wang Heli; photos: Wang Jing, Wu Yue