Source: Courtesy of Yellow Earth Theatre
Lear hands over control of his global business empire to his daughters. In his Shanghai penthouse, he asks them to justify their inheritance. The older sisters flatter their father in elegant Chinese but English educated Cordelia, no longer fluent in her father’s tongue, says “Nothing” and the loss of face sends Lear into a spiral of fury and madness. This bold UK premiere of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy is given an exciting modern spin with Britain’s award winning YET and China’s contemporary SDAC, featuring Chinese movie star Zhou Yemang as Lear. Using video, music and aerial work, this version addresses the miscommunication that arises from migration and Lear’s search for Taoist enlightenment.
David Yip – known to UK audiences as The Chinese Detective – and Chinese movie star, Zhou Yemang, feature in a futuristic version of King Lear as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) continuing Complete Works Festival.
Performed in the RSC’s temporary studio space, The Cube at the RST*, the production is directed by David Tse Ka-Shing and co-produced by London based Yellow Earth Theatre and Shanghai based Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre. Set in Shanghai and London, it is the future. China is the leading superpower. Those with money and power live above the law. Lear calls a video-conference to decide how his global business empire will be divided amongst his three daughters. We enter a vicious and visceral world where greed and ambition turns sister against sister, master against servant, child against parent. Betrayal, lust and murder follow Lear as he desperately searches for Taoist enlightenment. What hope is there for love?
Highlighting the difficulties of intercultural and intergenerational exchange, Lear and Cordelia’s fatal relationship is compounded by a Chinese Lear and an English-educated Cordelia, no longer fluent in her father’s language and reduced to saying ‘Nothing’. Providing a challenging cross cultural interpretation, East meets West in this exploration of Chinese and British identities, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, spiritual and financial wealth, family loyalty, and generational divides.
Including video, music and aerial work, the production remains largely faithful to Shakespeare’s original text with a modern twist. Audiences can expect flick knives instead of swords, but will see Lear addressed as ‘King’ instead of President of a global business empire.
Performed in Mandarin and English (with surtitles in both languages), the cast includes: David Yip (Gloucester/Albany) ; Zhou Yemang (King Lear); Daniel York (Edgar/Cornwall); Matt McCooey (Edmund); Zhang Lu (Goneril); Xie Li (Regan); Nina Kwok (Cordelia/Oswald); He Ju (Kent).
Joining David Tse Ka-Shing on the creative team is: Jonathan Man (Assistant Director); Zhu Sheng Hao (Chinese Translation); Sang Qi (Stage Designer); Doug Kuhrt (Lighting); Wang Jiwei (Music).
To learn more and see production photos, visit the Yellow Earth website about this production:
Read the script in Chinese and English.
Reviewed in Theatre Journal, Volume 59, Number 3, October 2007, pp. 494-495. Read review.
Note: This is the full video
Note: Cordelia speaks primarily English. She speaks only one word in Mandarin: meiyou (nothing).
Note: Lear and Cordelia face imprisonment. Cordelia speaks her lines in English while King Lear switches between English and Mandarin.