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Encountering Shakespeare’s plays on a midsummer’s night at WHU
Author:She Junyi & Zhang Jing  Date:2022-07-05  Clicks:

In the middle of -May, the final of the first Youlin Cup Shakespeare Drama Festival (SDF) was held at Wuhan University. Due to instability of the epidemic situation, the final adopted a mixed online-offline format for the performances. On the first evening, students from WHU and the Middle School Attached to WHU presented a wonderful show, which reflected the contemporary youths appreciation and love of Shakespeares plays and their innovative interpretation.


The opening ceremony of the final

Macbeth performed by the WHU Shakespeare Drama Club won the first prize in this year’s SDF. The main keynotes of this drama are darkness and blood, hatred and regret. The performers used two contrasting colors, black and red, reflected in the alternation of stage lights and actors clothes, rendering a gloomy and subdued atmosphere. Besides, the changes in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s hearts and souls could be felt through their inner monologues and aesthetic interaction. The highlight of the crew was the expressive performance of the three witches. Macbeth personally played a witch, which gave Shakespeare’s masterpiece a new and brave interpretation and enriched its content. Much like the last comment of this show, stage art conveys the writers spirit, and the power of literary classics has produced different feelings in different peoples hearts in different periods.


The performance of Macbeth

The Taming of the Shrew is a famous comedy from Shakespeares early production stage. The story is about Katherina, a rich lady with a hot personality, who becomes obedient and loses herself under the restraint and torture of a glib man, Petruchio. The story actually reflects the oppression of women in the male-dominated society at that time and describes the question in the Renaissance, whether there should be equality between men and women and whether women should compromise in the relationship between husband and wife. The students of WHU Arts School chose the scene of Petruchio going to Katherinas home and asking her father for permission to marry her. The hero and heroines performances were so tense, emotional and moving that the audience did not even dare to blink. The students’ performance first amused people and then provoked deep thoughts among the audience about Katherina’s fate, accounting for its excellency.


The performance of The Taming of the Shrew

Not only did the innovative elements contribute to the award-winning performances, but some others were noteworthy for the creative presentations on adaptation. Another two performances, excerpts from Salomé and Romeo and Juliet, were perfect examples.

The drama, Salomé, adapted from Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé, originates from a tale in the Bible. After the failure in her pursuit of Jokanaan, Princess Salomé requires King Herod to kill the prophet Jokanaan to keep his promise. “Our performance of Salomé could be regarded as a novel perspective to observe and salute Shakespeare from his compositional resources and implications,” said one of the actresses.


Performance of Salomé

Another distinct feature of the performance was the lines in both Chinese and English. The bilingual presentation made it possible for parallel appreciation from different cultural backgrounds. Besides this, the team consisted of both Chinese and international students. All of them were from a professional elective course named Selected English Plays in WHU and easily moved from class onto thestage. Not only was their success nof an international scale, but it also pioneered a new path for cross-cultural performance. Language differences are never an obstacle for plays, and there are no borders between nations in the arts.


International actors of the Salomé team

Similarly, the performance of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet by the WHU Zongdian Drama Club demonstrated adaptive creativity from another perspective. Considering the classic plot of the play, the scene depicted the romance between the hero and heroine, their vow of true love, a secret marriage plan and goodnight wishes. In previous performances, Juliet was generally shaped as a bashful and missish girl who dared not express too strong feelings. But this adaptation, strong emotions took the place of mildness and shyness. In the innovative performance of the actress, Juliets billowing emotions grasped the attention of the audience and left a memorable impression, which might lead to a fresh understanding of the character.


The balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet

As Shakespeare wrote in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “The course of true love never did run smoothly, the love story performance between Romeo and Juliet has verified this and also responded to the theme of this year’s SDF, youth. It is the same with people’s true love for Shakespeare. The way of appreciating and performing his masterpieces in creativity never did run smoothly either, but the actors and audience were trying their best.

With the show drawing to an end, guests expressed their high appreciation of all performances. “I am amazed at the successful performances in light of diversity. Different cultural backgrounds comprising Chinese and foreigners, the different age groups of senior high students and university students, different performance forms of endorsement and narrative styles, and different professional levels of actors from the School of Art and amateurs all contributed to an innovative and wonderful drama festival,” noted Yu Jiancun, Pa professor from the Shanghai Theatre Academy. Other guests agreed and regarded it as an excellent opportunity to improve English competence and drama appreciation ability as well.


The stinger performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream

At the end of the drama festival, a stinger performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream delivered by teachers and students from the WHU School of Foreign Languages and Literature drew a successful conclusion. The show ended perfectly, fading like a midsummer night’s dream. But literature classics and creativity will never fade away. They arouse different feelings in different people at different times. The power they convey is permanent.

Photo by Yuan Jingwen & Official Accounts of WHU

Edited by Li Jing, Qin ZehaoZhou Yue, Sylvia, Xi Bingqing


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