Casting update for The Orphan of Zhao

Casting update for Gregory Doran's world premiere of The Orphan of Zhao at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Swan Theatre.

The Orphan of Zhao

A new adaptation by James Fenton

Directed by Gregory Doran

Swan Theatre: 30 October 2012 – 28 March 2013

Press Night: Thursday 8 November, 7pm

Box Office: 0844 800 1110,

World Premiere

Part of the RSC's A World Elsewhere trilogy of newly adapted classics from around the world.

Sometimes referred to as the Chinese Hamlet, and tracing its origins to the 4th century BC, The Orphan of Zhao is a powerful tale of self-sacrifice and revenge. It became the first Chinese play to be translated in the West, in an adaptation by Voltaire.  This production, based in part on a version by Ji Junxiang, published in 1616, is adapted by James Fenton.

Gregory Doran said of his decision to do the play: 'The original play tells of events in China's ancient past, over 2000 years ago. It was probably originally written in the late thirteenth century, during the Yuan Dynasty by Ji Junxiang, of whom almost nothing is known, but it was then published in 1616, during the reign of the feeble Ming Emperor, Wan Li, who ruled China during Shakespeare's lifetime.

'I decided I had to find a copy and read this play. I was then introduced to a lecturer from Leeds University called Dr Ruru Li. Ruru's mother had been a great star of the Peking Opera, and her step father, the playwright Cao Yu, was considered to be one of the pioneers of modern Chinese drama. Ruru knew of still more versions of the iconic story, and told me of one that had been performed in the early sixties before the terrors of the Cultural Revolution. She wrote to the family of the adapter, and they sent me a copy of his text too. Ruru encouraged me to consider The Orphan of Zhao as a living story, and to tell our version, via the Ji Junxiang version, in our own way.

'This then was the brief with which I approached James Fenton, and it is in this spirit of open enquiry that we have developed the play for the Swan this autumn, to open our season: A World Elsewhere.  The first Chinese play ever to be performed in the West will be the first Chinese play ever performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company.'

To read Greg's blogs about his trip to China to research the production with designer Niki Turner:

James Fenton added: 'The story of the Orphan of Zhao is continually retold in China, with endless variations. At the heart of my version is the Yuan-dynasty play, which I often follow very closely. But where the play doesn't tell the whole story, I have invented and added new scenes, and elaborating on themes which I thought had interesting and unexpected resonances for a contemporary audience. The language and the theatrical idiom imitates the Chinese original, the poetry goes back to the classic era, but the emotional experiences evoked are always, I hope, profoundly true and familiar.'  

The cast, who also appear in Michael  Boyd's production of Boris Godunov this season,  includes: Matthew Aubrey (Ti Miming), Adam Burton (The Assassin), Joe Dixon (Tu'an Gu), Lucy Briggs-Owen (Princess), Jake Fairbrother (Cheng Bo), Nia Gwynne (Dr Cheng's Wife), Susan Momoko Hingley (Princess' Maid), Lloyd Hutchinson (Han Jue), Joan Iyiola, Youssef Kerkour (Guard), Chris Lew Kum Hoi (Ghost of Dr Cheng's son), Siu Hun Li (Guard), Patrick Romer (Gongsun), James Tucker (Zhao Dun), Graham Turner (Dr Cheng),  Stephen Ventura (Emperor Ling), Philip Whitchurch (Wei Jang),

The play is designed by Niki Turner with lighting by Tim Mitchell and music composed by Paul Englishby. The sound design is by Martin Slavin and Movement by Will Tuckett.

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 Date of issue:  30 August 2012

Notes to Editors:

A World Elsewhere is a trilogy of newly adapted classics from around the world during Shakespeare's lifetime.  'A World Elsewhere' is a quote from Shakespeare's Coriolanus, reminding Rome's citizens that there are other countries and people apart from their own. 

The other plays in the trilogy, which run in repertoire with The Orphan of Zhao in the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, are a new adaptation of Boris Godunov by Adrian Mitchell based on the play by Alexander Pushkin and directed by Michael Boyd (previewing from 15 November 2012), and A Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht, translated by Mark Ravenhill and directed by Roxana Silbert (previewing from 31 January 2013). 

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