Last week, I travelled to Jiangxi Provence in China to represent the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust at the 2nd International Forum of Cultural Inheritance and Innovation, hosted by the city of Fuzhou’s Municipal People’s Government and the Chinese People’s Association for friendship with Foreign Countries.
I was an invited guest of the Mayor of Fuzhou, which is the home town of the Chinese writer Tang Xianzu, who died in the same year as Shakespeare. It was good to meet with some familiar faces; some of the city’s officials had travelled to Stratford earlier this year to take part in the Shakespeare Birthday celebrations.
Although Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu could never have met, there are common themes within their works, especially with regard to love and human relationships. I attended a conference during my visit, which explored these common themes further as well as consideration of the works of other great world dramatists, composers and performers. The conference was attended by academics and performance professionals from across China and representatives from Canada, Verona and Russia, to name a few. This was the start of a month-long drama festival in the city that includes many performances of plays, dance and opera by companies from around the world.
The opening ceremony of the festival was, quite simply, amazing; involving thousands of performers in a huge parade showcasing different styles of dance and music – everything from Chinese Opera and Samba to Swan Lake and Irish Dance; there were even a hoard of Hamlets and an inflatable Shakespeare! I was also fortunate enough to see a performance of one of Tang Xianzu’s most famous works, The Peony Pavilion, which was visually stunning and beautiful to listen too.