SHAKESPEARE is set to get a new audience – 955 million strong.
The Bard’s works are to be translated into Mandarin Chinese, the most widely spoken language in the world, as part of the RSC’s decade-long strategy to produce a ‘Global Folio’ of Shakespeare translations to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the First Folio, published in 1623.
The company will begin the project in collaboration with Chinese writers and translators, who will be involved in the RSC’s rehearsal process and invited to create new Mandarin translations of Shakespeare’s plays.
The first play to be translated will be The Merchant of Venice, which the company will stage from next May at the RSC in Stratford. The RSC is planning to stream the production into school classrooms in China.
And the RSC has also revealed plans for a major tour to China in 2016 to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
The Company is in negotiations with partners in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to tour Gregory Doran’s productions of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Parts I & II and Henry V.
Alongside the ambition to bring fresh translations of Shakespeare to a Chinese audience, the RSC also wants to introduce UK audiences to more classical Chinese drama.
Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director, said: “I profoundly believe that we foster deeper understanding between cultures by sharing and telling each other our stories.
“Therefore, I am hugely excited by the ambitions of our Chinese cultural partners and their interest in working with the Royal Shakespeare Company on these new collaborations. China has a rich dramatic heritage that mirrors the epic scale, complexity and universality of Shakespeare’s work and a national curriculum which requires young people to study his plays.
“Our plans to translate Shakespeare into Mandarin, to see translation and performance of more Chinese classics in the UK and to tour RSC productions to China will celebrate the arts and culture of both nations.”
The government has given the RSC some £1.8 million to support both the translation project and the tour.
Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “Creating stronger links with China is a top priority for the Government, and sharing the very best of our respective cultures is a brilliant way to make this happen.
“This funding means Western and Eastern cultures can learn from and be enriched by one another and what better way than using the works of Shakespeare. The package marks a really important step for both China and the UK to grow a strong and progressive relationship.”