Over a year of hard work culminated in a beautiful demonstration of cross-cultural collaboration in the stage@leeds theatre last night. The Business Confucius Institute attended the premiere as a proud sponsor of the project.
Students from the University of Leeds and the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing (UIBE) took to the stage, each group performing a 45-minute adaptation of a Shakespeare or Tang Xianzu play. The two playwrights both died 400 years ago in 1616, and the Shakespeare-Tang project was conceived to celebrate this milestone and strengthen cultural links between China and the UK. Teams on opposite sides of the globe had been working towards this world premiere for over a year.
The performance was opened by Sir Alan Langlands, Vice Chancellor of the University of Leeds, and Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming.
Students from UIBE were first to perform, with their modern interpretation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Humorous references to modern culture and young love were cleverly interspersed with key elements of the original Shakespeare story to create an amusing adaptation, well-acted by the student cast.
The stage@leeds theatre company condensed Dreaming Under the Southern Bough, the 21-hour Chinese Opera masterpiece by Tang Xianzu, into a much shorter version that captured the essence of the saga. Enhanced by beautiful costumes, projections and sound, the theme of ‘dreaming’ continued from the Shakespeare play and linked the pieces together.
Taken as a whole, this new production created by participants in the Shakespeare-Tang project is named ‘A Midsummer Night’s DREAMING Under the Southern Bough’. Following the well-received premiere in Leeds, the cast will now travel to Scotland to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, before touring in China.
We hope that this project, an ambitious collaboration between two strong international Universities, will serve as an example of how cross-cultural activities can be woven into the fabric of academic and extra-curricular programmes to provide a foundation of true understanding, openness and cooperation between students around the world.