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RSC Shakespeare in China

Timothy Jones
December 30, 2015

Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company will conduct its first major tour of China in 2016, performing three of Shakespeare's history plays. The tour comes as the UK seeks to better its economic ties with Beijing.

William Shakespeare Portrait Bild Gemälde von John Taylor
Image: gemeinfrei

Chinese audiences will soon be able to enjoy the Bard's tales of court life, kingship and bloody battles in medieval England and France during a tour by one of Britain's most famous theater companies.

The China tour by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in February and March will mark 400 years since the death of the famous playwright, whose works are already popular with Chinese audiences and are widely taught at universities in the country.

The company will be performing artistic director Gregory Doran's productions of "Henry IV - Part I" "Henry IV - Part II" and "Henry V" in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The three works are little known in China, where audiences are more familiar with such plays as the romantic "Romeo and Juliet."

William Shakespeare - China
Hamlet in Hong Kong, a 2014 productionImage: Getty Images

Bringing cultures closer together

In a statement on the RSC website, Doran said that it was possible to bring cultures closer together by the mutual telling of stories, and pointed out similarities between the two countries' dramatic traditions.

"China's rich dramatic heritage mirrors the epic scale, complexity and universality of Shakespeare's work, and has a national curriculum which requires young people to study his plays," he said.

According to other information published on the company's website, the tour was announced during the inaugural UK-China Bilateral Investment Conference in 2014, but details of the program have only now been released.

Cultural exchange

The RSC, which is based in the playwright's birthplace of Stratford-on-Avon, is undertaking the tour as part of a wider cultural artistic and educational exchange with China.

The program also includes the project of making new Chinese translations of Shakespeare's works, and creating English versions of Chinese classics.

The announcement of the tour details comes on the heels of a high-profile visit to Britain in October by Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which trade deals worth more than 30 billion pounds (41 billion euros, $46 billion) were signed.

The visit aroused some controversy, with some human rights activists accusing the British government of turning a blind eye to China's doubtful record on human rights in return for lucrative investment deals.