King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies, will embrace its 2nd round
Shakespeare’s classic, King Lear, one of his four great tragedies, depicts humanity driven to contention by power and desire against the backdrop of a king’s downfall. Yet the play’s tragic momentum, remains replete with calls for spiritual redemption. On January 20th, the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) will team up with LI Liuyi Studio in Beijing to produce the forthcoming 2nd round of King Lear performances. King and minister, father and son, two families, and a dynasty will unfurl the epic of human history right before the audience’s eyes.
The starring role King Lear will be played by renowned Chinese actor PU Cunxin
Debuted in January 2017, King Lear was the NCPA’s 3rd performance of a Shakespearean play, after A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet. In order to grasp better the essence of Shakespeare’s original work, the NCPA has extended a special invitation to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s script supervisor to coach the actors. Director LI Liuyi, leading actors PU Cunxi and LU Fang, as well as ZHAO Ling and LUO Wei of the NCPA Drama Ensemble, have all enjoyed the opportunity to visit England and train with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Set designer Michael Simon and costume designer Emi Wada sparkle the creative team
It’s worth mentioning that the NCPA’s production of King Lear has chosen the new translation by YANG Shipeng from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Shakespeare translation project. Director LI Liuyi developed the material through readings and rehearsals, in order to create a version of Shakespeare most suitable for performance on a modern Chinese stage. In LI Liuyi’s view, “Shakespeare’s brilliance was that he wrote in a vernacular style without losing philosophical depth.” Additional invitations were extended to German-born set designer, Michael Simon and Japanese costume designer, Emi Wada. Wada served as costume designer on Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, a film adaptation of King Lear, and nabbed an Oscar in the process. For the NCPA’s production, Wada has created a series of impressive costumes, in large part hand-sewn. She said, “I hope when the actors step into these outfits, they are also stepping into their roles. An actor’s attire assists them in assuming their character’s identity.”
During the first round, renowned theatrical performer, PU Cunxi, has exquisitely captured Lear’s dignity as a monarch, his rage at suffering his daughters’ betrayal, and his remorse upon realizing how he had wronged his youngest daughter. His commanding presence as an actor takes the audience on an emotional and cathartic journey. A critic commented, “PU Cunxi understands perfectly the multifaceted nature of the character and gives Lear his emotional dues. It’s all in his delivery. He enunciates clearly and acts with precision; the changes in volume, pitch and speed of his speech, his rhythm and cadence, all sound natural and fluent. His convincing and infectious performance places this Lear above and beyond all others.” In the upcoming set of performances, PU Cunxi, for the 2nd time, takes on the role of this once glorious king turned destitute. YANG Qi, LU Fang, and WANG Wenjie bring to the stage Lear’s daughters, three disparate personalities put at odds by Shakespeare’s pen.
For the NCPA’s production, Director LI Liuyi has chosen to interweave the two plot lines in order to highlight the struggle for power within the House of Gloucester, with its clear juxtaposition of the sinister plots among two brothers and their father with their sense familial fidelity. This easily overlooked subplot, cleverly reworked, not only gives impetus to Lear’s realization of his own senile confusion, but also gives fans of the Bard a novel perspective for afterthought. Portraying Lord Gloucester and his three sons are: French-trained actor, WEI Xiaoping, Beijing People’s Art Theatre’ s young actor, JING Hao, and the NCPA Drama Ensemble’s ZHAO Ling.
Two families, and a dynasty will unfurl the epic of human history right before the audience’s eyes
The NCPA’s production of King Lear will run until January 28th (closing on the 22nd), eight performances that will give the entire audience a sumptuous feast of Shakespearean delights to mark the arrival of the new year.