Zhou Ye Mang played the role of King Lear in David Tse’s King Lear in 2006.
This interview is from a Q&a session during the King Lear UK tour.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about the production and your role within it?
I will play King Lear in “King Lear”. This is about a stubborn king who makes himself into the worst situation in his life. He makes typical mistakes that old man usually does—like to be flattered, trust the wrong person, is trapped by “his close fellows”. It ends bitterly—relatives gone, everything he had all gone.
本人在莎士比亚（William Shakespeare）的《李尔王》（King Lear）一剧中扮演国王李尔，该剧说的是一个固执己见的国王，如何陷自己于最糟境地。李尔王犯下许多年纪大的人都会犯的典型错误——爱接受谄媚，信错了人，最终被“自己人”反咬，落得众叛亲离和一无所有的下场。
2. Can you tell us a bit about the preparations you have been making for your role in this production?
First I read through the play, hinted by the reveals and metaphor, I try to fully understand this ancient exotic story. The role I will create is an old man in power, but he gives out his power actively. In this case, I will focus on physical movement and facial expression when playing it. But I don’t think this is a senile man. What Lear does is he wants to make his decision and act when he still could, although this leads to a fatal result. He is always a strong man until the tragedy takes place—at that moment, he is completely beaten down.
3. You are well known for your work on TV and Film as well as the stage – which do you prefer and how do they differ for an actor?
I have been working in theatre for nearly 25 years now. I am just indulgenced in it and regard it as ever-lasting spring in my career life. On stage, everything I smells is sweet and nice. As work for TV and Film, it can’t be absent too, but more like technological practice. Actually acting in TV or Film, you can never feel choked or that excited as when you are on stage.
4. This production of King Lear is quite radical and opens first in Shanghai. What resonance do you think Shakespeare’s play has with a contemporary Chinese audience?
If I was the audience, I would first enjoy Shakespeare’s literary grace very much, and then the content. When I found these two are perfectly matched, I would feel very excited. I guess this is the charm of Shakespeare. Every place has its own audience in all times, although the cultural background differs, the grace and essence of great works would never be neglected. I think audience who has good taste will not simply focus on the plot, the story, he will raise cultural thinking too. I think modern Chinese audience is like that.
5. It is often said that Shakespeare captures the human condition in a universal and timeless way. What parallels do you see between the themes in the play and the way we live today?
I think the tragedy of King Lear Shakespeare created is a warning he made to people of all societies—we should seek sincerity all the time, in whatever position, a king or an ordinary person. Sincerity is forever the topic of our life, especially in today’s rapidly changed society. Many people lie for the sake of interest while dictators ruin truth to enhance their governing. In my opinion, this play warns people probably from this perspective.
6. How does it feel to be bringing the performance to Shakespeare’s home town?
This really encourages me when I can act in Shakespeare’s hometown because his works is the wealth belongs to all human races. If I can go the origin of this wealth, it will definitely improve me a lot.
7. Finally, if you were to summarise, what does Shakespeare mean to you?
Shakespeare is a great man. His devotion to man kind is not just for the Renaissances, it lasts forever. He analyses deeply on human’s flaw which could be found in many plays like <Hamlet>, <King Lear>, <Romeo and Juliet>, <Merchant of Venice> etc. which are my frequent topics. As an artist I do feel honoured to have the chance joining this production.