Monday, October 30, 2006

Virtual Shakespeare

Imagine a video game where - instead of slaying goblins or foiling terrorists - you're examining Hamlet's tragic flaw and dissecting Macbeth's soliloquy.

It could soon be a reality if Indiana University scientist Edward Castronova gets his way. He plans to recreate Shakespeare's 16th-century London in a virtual computer world.
Headline of the Week
Opera Africa stages a gender-bending Romeo and Juliet

Opera, perhaps more than any other theatrical convention, is about transforming the truth or, at least, stretching it. That is certainly the case with the role of Romeo in Bellini’s opera I Capuleti e Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues).
Haunting Hamlet Shot For Halloween

Halloween 2006 heralds ghostly goings on as a supernatural thriller version of Shakespeare's seminal work, Hamlet (, completes filming in time for a January 2007 release. Focusing on the character of the ghost as a psychopathic spirit behind all the killings, the feature film is directed by Alexander Fodor and produced by music industry-based Paul Allan-Slade, starring Wilson Belchambers in the eponymous role.

Shot throughout summer 2006 at the Gate Studio in London and on location in Southend on Sea, Hamlet has now reached rush edit stage and is going into sound treatment and musical composition.

Paul Allan-Slade, producer, says: "Hamlet is a ghost story and yet, incredibly, no one has ever told it as one. In Fodor's Hamlet, emphasis is put on the nightmarish ether of the play, setting it in a surrealistic no-man's land. The members of the court are painted as scheming, back stabbing and vicious personas."

Paul continues: "This is a court put together by the maniacal Hamlet the elder (the ghost) and it is an environment that, even after his death, he controls by using children as his mediums to contact the physical world.

This could only be done with film, where atmospheric music and sound effects create the subconscious messages to the viewers."

Rather than following schoolbook definitions of the characters, Fodor's versions have a contemporary twist. The traditionally weak Ophelia is now dominated by her elder sister, Polonia (normally a male comic role), who supplies her with addictive drugs to cement that control. Hamlet's father, the ghost (normally an heroic victim), is now an evil psychopath, manipulating his own son to gain brutal revenge on his murderer, Claudius, without any concern for the eventual fate of his own son.

Lydia Piechowiak, who plays Polonia, says: "It's not often you get to play the part of a doddering old man and even less likely that you get to play him as a scheming Machiavellian femme fatale. On the first day of shooting, I got to seduce a woman I was about to strangle, and then lie shot through the eye in a pool of blood. Nice."

Character variants aside, not one single line of dialogue has been added or changed. The difference is in the delivery, with the emphasis on ensuring that an audience which may have never heard a single line of Shakespeare is able to accept it as an alternative accent of English.
Paul explains: "Take, for example, the Denmark prison scene, which can be viewed on the excerpts page of the movie's website. In it you will see what appears to be an improvisational workshop with the actors speaking to the camera, which is in itself a character. In fact, it's all texted Shakesperian English. But gone are the elitist parameters which ostracise the general public."

Fodor's Hamlet, from production house Zed Resistor (, will be the forty-second film/television version of the popular ghostly tale. The five most recent Shakesperian releases have collectively grossed over $100,000,000 USD*

Clips from the production may be viewed at:

Monday, October 16, 2006

Chinese-UK co-produced King Lear

SHANGHAI, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Eight actors from China and Britain, all of whom are of Chinese decent, are in intense rehearsals on a version of King Lear that not only updates Shakespeare's great tragedy but transplants it to Shanghai sometime in the future.
The drama is being jointly produced by the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center and Yellow Earth Theater (YET) of the UK.

David Tse Ka-Shing, YET's artistic director, said his version of King Lear, is set in both Shanghai and London, in the year 2020. King Lear has been transformed into a Chinese tycoon who operates a vast business empire.

"My version of King Lear is full of oriental philosophy, which tells a story about family ties," said Mr. Tse. "There is misunderstanding in a family of immigrants where the elder immigrant has difficulty communicating with his children." Tse, emigrated to England at the age of six with his parents but later found himself having difficulty communicating with them.

Tse said Chinese audiences can relate to the story of King Learas Shakespeare's moral lessons compare to the values found in Confucius.

Tse said the four British actors are ethnic Chinese how never learned to speak Chinese while the Chinese actors have limited ability to speak English.

The language barrier was a major problem for Tse. "In the end, I resorted to letting the Chinese actors speak in Chinese and the Britons in English." Chinese actor Zhou Yemang plays the lead.

The British actors will mainly follow Shakespeare's original text while the Chinese actors will perform lines in Chinese translated by Zhu Shenghao, a famous Chinese translator, said Tse.

Shakespeare, whose plays were first brought to China western missionaries in the mid-19th century, has had a big following in present-day China. Thirty-seven of Shakespeare's literary works have been translated into Chinese.

Tse's adaptation of King Lear will run from Oct. 25 to Nov. 4 at the Drama Salon of Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center.

The drama troupe have been invited to perform at the International Shakespeare Festival of Britain in November. The troupe will give performances at the Royal Shakespeare Theater between Nov.15 - 18 and also perform in Nottingham, Liverpool and London till Dec. 9, said a spokesman for the Shanghai Drama Arts Center.