The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Wednesday 24 August 2011
Prince Zi Dan, the Peking Opera version of Hamlet, considers his next move. To show that he's thinking, he stretches one foot up past his ear and goes into a deep crouch on his supporting leg. He does this while wearing an embroidered costume, high platform shoes and a headdress with waving peacock plumes. Having finished his contemplative stretch, he cries, "Let's go!"
Peking Opera mixes stylised singing with dance, mime, acrobatics and martial arts. It's a highly formal style, with recognisable character types and reactions. The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan is a fascinating recent adaptation, translating the Hamlet storyline into a very different form.
Claudius becomes a "mask" character, his face painted in black and white patterns, his voice raw and growling. Polonius is now a clown, toddling in a squatting position under his full, loose robe. Stabbed by Zi Dan, he turns multiple backflips while dying. Ophelia's madness works brilliantly with the Peking Opera conventions. The flowers become part of her elaborately feminine persona, her distress shown through her fluttering sleeves.
This is a style for action and big emotion, so the pace slows when characters stop to plot and debate. Fu Xiru's Zi Dan moves grandly through the story, whether recoiling from a ghost or preparing for a duel.
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