Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu

University of Leeds news and media call (For immediate release: 01/06/16)
Global theatre collaboration celebrates Shakespeare and his Chinese counterpart

This year marks not only 400 years since the death of Shakespeare, but also that of the great Ming dynasty playwright Tang Xianzu.

dreamingWilliam Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu: Celebrating a 400 Year Legacy, is a unique global collaboration organised by the University of Leeds to create a new stage production to commemorate both anniversaries, featuring university students from both the UK and China.

Working around the common theme of dreams, students in Beijing and Yorkshire have been simultaneously rehearsing on opposite sides of the globe and will come together this summer for back-to-back performances of contemporary adaptions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tang’s Nanke-ji (A Dream Under the Southern Bough) in Leeds (where it will premiere in late July), at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and major cities in China including Fuzhou – Tang’s birthplace.

This event will be a chance to see an open rehearsal for the Yorkshire half of the performance, with UK students preparing DREAMING Under the Southern Bough, an adaption of Tang Xianzu’s play.

Ruru Li, Professor of Chinese Theatre Studies at Leeds, is one of those leading the Anglo-Chinese theatrical project. She said: “Shakespeare and his Chinese contemporary Tang Xianzu are the greatest playwrights of their respective theatres. Their plays make us weep, laugh and imagine; they also touch our hearts and souls.

“Our project, with Chinese students working on an English play and British students on a Chinese play, allows the two traditions to talk to each other and the two groups to commune with spirit, voice, body, and breath. It is a genuine intercultural practice, both thought-provoking and a great pleasure for everyone involved.

“The project is making people think about the value and relevance of two classic plays to contemporary society and will also enhance cultural exchange between China and the UK.”

On his visit to the UK last October, Chinese President Xi Jinping endorsed the idea of a joint celebration of both playwrights to help deepen cultural understanding between the two countries.

“China and the UK can join in celebrating the legacies of these two literary giants, to promote interpersonal dialogue and deepen mutual understanding,” he told guests at a dinner hosted by the Mayor of London.

Steve Ansell is Artistic Director of the University’s stage@leeds theatre. He co-wrote the new production with School of Performance and Cultural Industries colleague Dr Adam Strickson and is also directing it.

He said: “This is a groundbreaking project that will allow two groups, from two cultures, the opportunity to creatively explore, understand and appreciate each other’s similarities and distinctions through the work of two great writers and the shared language of theatre.

“The two stories have the same overarching theme of ‘dreaming’, which can bring Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu – as well as Britain and China – together.”

Performances will be presented initially by the students at their own universities, before being performed ‘back-to-back’ at the 2016 Leeds Intercultural Festival from 27 July and at the Edinburgh Fringe from 5-13 August. From 15-25 September, the show will tour Beijing, Shanghai, and be performed in Tang’s hometown – Fuzhou in Jiangxi Province – during the Tang Xianzu Memorial Festival.

The Shakespeare-Tang research collaboration is also featuring a series of lectures, workshops and cultural exchanges.


WHAT:         Preview of major Anglo-Chinese theatre project celebrating Shakespeare and his Chinese contemporary, Tang Xianzu

WHEN:         Friday 17 June 2016, noon–2.30pm

WHERE:       stage@leeds theatre, University of Leeds, UK

WHO:           Meet the creative team behind the project, together with cast members. View an open rehearsal of the UK ‘half’ of the performance

Noon:              Buffet lunch. Members of the creative team available for interview
1pm:    Open rehearsal of DREAMING Under the Southern Bough
1.45pm: Interviews and photography with actors and members of the creative team.

Reporters, photographers and broadcasters are welcome to attend. To give an idea of numbers for catering purposes, please RSVP to Ms Hu Xiaoting, by Friday, 10 June.

Further information

  • For further details, images, or to arrange interviews at other times, please contact University of Leeds Media Relations Manager Gareth Dant on 0113 3433996 or email
  • A major exhibition – For All Time: Shakespeare in Yorkshire – opens at the University’s new Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, on 5 September.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *