How it’s New York: New York is a multicultural mecca. Shakespeare lends himself to global investigation, and no surprise that we get to see beijinggoldan exciting Chinese Richard III here.
How it’s (Irish) English: William Shakespeare was an English playwright, and of course his plays have been popular in Ireland for many years. Frank McCourt recalls learning to love Shakespeare in “Angela’s Ashes.”

We conducted this interview with director Wang Xiaoying, the director of the National Theatre, who brings his “Richard III” to the NYU Skirball Center from Wednesday, March 26, through Sunday, March 29, through an interpreter. We’ll be seeing it on Thursday, and are very much looking forward to it! The production is part of fthe second annual Visions + Voices Global Performance Series which focuses this spring on China.

From the press release:

The production is presented as part of the second annual Visions + Voices Global Performance Series which focuses this spring on China. This production of Shakespeare’s wicked horror-show of power and paranoia, was an audience favorite and critical hit during London’s Globe to Globe Shakespeare festival and Cultural Olympiad in 2012. Performed in Putonghua, or Mandarin, with English supertitles, the plays fundamental themes of desire, power, ambition and jealousy, are potent reminders of humanity’s ongoing struggles. National Theatre of China stages work in three different performance spaces in Beijing and works with the finest playwrights and directors in China. Their trailblazing productions reveal the new face of 21st century Chinese theatre. The Visions + Voices Global Performance Series is an annual performing arts series held at the NYU Skirball Center that creates a unique opportunity to celebrate and closely examine a singular world culture through a wide ranging artistic lens.

1. 从跨文化的角度看,理查三世的什么因素能使这部作品吸引不同文化背景的读者?为什么你会选择这个挑战?

Wang Xiaoying

Wang Xiaoying

NYIA. What is it about “Richard III” that appeals across cultures? Why did you want to take on this challenge?


Richard III is not just another King in the U.K.’s history. The complexity of his personality reflects a general dilemma of all human beings: lust, ambitions, and the extreme measures to gratify such desire, eventually generate the vanish of humanity. Therefore I believe, anyone who lives in a real world begins to be controlled by his lust and ambitions, and thus attempts to take desperate methods to satisfy his desire, he is then in the process of becoming Richard III.

2: 我们已经见过Mark Rylance将理查诠释成一个小丑,而Kevin Spacey将理查演成了一个精明的政客。你们的理查三世是什么样的形象?

NYIA. We’ve seen Richard as a clown, with Mark Rylance, and Richard as a canny politician, with Kevin Spacey. What is your vision of Richard?


Our Richard III is different from the rest. He is a double-faced person with a sound appearance yet an amputated spirit. While talking to people, he is a charming and determined politician, however in the inside while he talks to himself, an ugly person with a flagitious miser heart trapped in a twisted body. The actor on stage constantly switching between these two states, is very similar to the Chinese philosophy “Yin-Yang”: two opposing principles exist in one entity, negative versus positive. To my point of view, it truly expresses the complexity of humanity.[pullquote]The actor on stage constantly switching between these two states, is very similar to the Chinese philosophy “Yin-Yang”: two opposing principles exist in one entity, negative versus positive. To my point of view, it truly expresses the complexity of humanity.[/pullquote]

3. 你是怎样将传统的乐器,音乐和假发饰融入这部制作的?你可以举一个具体的例子,说说某个场景是如何运用音乐的吗?

NYIA. How do the traditional instruments/music and wigs fit in to the production? Would you give me a specific richardchinaexample of how music is used with a scene?


I adapted a lot of Chinese percussions in the music, which the idea comes from Chinese traditional Peking opera, but the differences here are all the percussions are played by only one musician. The rhythm of Richard III percussions is way richer than those in Peking operas. For example, while 2 assassinators went into the London Tower for the murder of Duke of Clarence, our actors borrowed some performance methods from one of the major representative works San Cha Kou (literately translated as Crossroads), in a way that the percussions always keep a well pace with actors’ moves. Another example goes to Prince of Wales’s entry, where usually the Peking opera martial role performs with a dance of riding horses with expressive percussions to illustrate a changeful and impressive scene.

richardscene4. 在中国,大家对莎士比亚的普遍看法如何?莎士比亚作品是怎样教给学生的呢?他在中国的地位和现状如何?你的翻译是否经过现代语言的转述,或者还是保持古语的表述方法(相当于伊利莎白时代的英语)?

 NYIA: How is Shakespeare taught and viewed in China; what sort of status does he have? Is your translation modernized, or is it archaic (as Elizabethan English is for us)?


Shakespeare is the most familiar foreign theater play writer to the Chinese audiences. We have a history over one hundred years to put on his plays on stage, and nowadays we have many of his works on stage and also our own Shakespeare festival. In recent years, the Chinese audiences are exposed to more and more various western interpretations of Shakespeare, which deepen and widen their understanding of his rich allusion. Considering the younger generation, especially how to make them easily accept this production, we decided to use comparatively modern language except for some intentional usage of the way we read Chinese traditional theatric lines.

5. 你觉得纽约和中国观众对你作品的看法会有什么不一样?还是说会一致?

NYIA: How do you think New York and Chinese audiences might differ in their reception of the work — or be the same? 


Our Richard III is a surprise to the Chinese audiences. Some experts even commented  onit as “After decades we tried to tell a Shakespeare story in Chinese way, this noon it finally reach a nature, proper interpretation.” Many New York audiences have seen a Shakespeare play before, and we hope they could feel the unique artistic strength of our Richard III.

The National Theatre of China’s RICHARD III runs Wednesday, March 26 – Saturday March 29 at 8PM and Sunday, March 30 at 3PM. Running time is 100 minutes and tickets are available at for $39-$65

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.