Our new Chinese translation of Twelfth Night played at at the Guangzhou Dramatic Art Centre in southern China during October 2018.
Shakespeare's play was given a vivid and contemporary translation into Chinese by So Kwok Wan, as part of our Shakespeare Folio Translation Project. The production was directed by Cressida Brown and designed by Jemima Robinson.
Actors wore modern dress and acted on an island surrounded by water, a no man’s island of unrequited love. The stage, like a raft afloat at sea, was made of the floorboards of an old theatre stage. Out of this raft an abstract lone tree incongruously grew, its leaves giant scrunched love letters, around which the actors performed. As the story progressed words like ‘’true’’, ‘’love’’ and ‘’echo’’ became visible on these leaves as they changed colour. Illyria was a tropical place always on the verge of a storm, which seemed apt considering the production coincided with the typhoon that hit Guangzhou.
The translation process of Twelfth Night is aimed at creating a performance script, not literary reading material. We looked beyond the words, digging for clues in the verse and seeing it as direction rather than poetry. The act of translation involved using these clues to unlock the action, intention and character packed into Shakespeare’s language for the Chinese actors, as it would have been for the English actors.
It’s unusual for Guangzhou Dramatic Art Centre to put on a comedy, but Twelfth Night was very successful - it ran for nine performances to a packed house, with audience members as young as five years old.