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Electric agenda puts emotion center stage

An innovative play blends conceptions of Shakespeare's female characters and explorations of virtual human development, Li Yingxue reports.

By Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-11 07:12
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The plot of the drama Shakespeare's Garden unfolds in a company named Shakespeare Holdings. [Photo provided to China Daily]

An innovative play blends conceptions of Shakespeare's female characters and explorations of virtual human development, Li Yingxue reports.

A rhythmic heartbeat echoes beyond the dimly lit stage and throughout the theater. As the lights brighten, a company named Shakespeare Holdings comes into view. They're working on a unique project: crafting emotionally supportive electronic plants inspired by female characters from Shakespeare's plays.

This sets the scene for the play, Shakespeare's Garden. Despite the name, it's not a tale about Shakespeare's love life or his female characters as a group. Instead, it delves into the intersection of technology and emotions.

Characters like Ophelia, Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth take center stage. They are intertwined into the 24-hour life of an employee, known as A, at Shakespeare Holdings. The play explores the mix of classic and modern elements, workplace realities and childhood traumas, and the contrast between vivid human emotions and emotionless electronic plants.

Ultimately, it delves into deep reflections on self, soul and creation.

Shakespeare's Garden premiered at the end of December at the small theater of the National Theatre of China in Beijing as part of the 16th Beijing International Youth Drama Festival in 2023.

This debut work is helmed by young director Nie Jingzhu, with a cast of talented young actors, including Zhang Yamei, Wang Yao, Li Chenyang and Wang Linshan. The script was written by up-and-coming playwright Huang Bing, while various aspects like stage design, music, lighting, multimedia, costumes and makeup were handled by a team of talented young artists.

Nie jokes that: "Perhaps even Shakespeare had a team akin to the Shakespeare Holdings. I'm fortunate to have an outstanding team of individuals, each excelling in their respective artistic fields. It's the synergy of our talents and mutual support that has brought forth this captivating stage presentation."

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