The Orphan of Zhao

For the last few weeks I’ve been following a really interesting debate that has been getting the theatre world chatting right across the globe. The Royal Shakespeare Company in the UK are about to stage a production of the the Chinese play The Orphan of Zhao.  The play, from the 13th century, is often referred to as the ‘Chinese Hamlet’, and the RSC production is a new translation by James Fenton.

Fenton writes here giving a wonderful background to the play.

However, controversy has arisen because out of 17 actors cast in the piece, only 3 are  of  South East Asian origin and they play two puppeteers and and a maid. The debate and back lash has been harsh and forced the RSC on the offensive about their casting policies.

The media across the world has got involved, from The Huffington Post to the LA Times to the UK Guardian.

What I find even more interesting is that the ‘blogoshere’ has joined the debate in a very vociferous and intelligent way and I wanted to share some of that too: Madam Miaow, Dangerology and Theatrical Geographies all write passionately about the debate.  The latter blog is particularly interesting and worth a read. Even Twitter and  Facebook are not immune to the uproar.

I’ll let you read through and make your own mind up, but I have to say it is the first time I have come across the term yellowing-up and it is disturbing.

Finally, I want to include an interview with the director of the show that was made before the storm hit.


1 thought on “The Orphan of Zhao

  1. This is captivating. Personally I find it a fascinating debate being a white Brit who has lived in Hong Kong for 7 years. As a drama teacher working in an International School, I find myself thinking more about cultural connotations than I ever did when teaching in the UK. How lucky we are here to educate the next generation of drama practitioners within an International context enriched by our SE Asian cultural landscape.

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