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Merchant visits Shanghai's Great Theatre

By Zhang Kun | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-26 08:54
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From left: Actors Jin Shijia, Yu Ailei and Ayanga attend a news event to promote their upcoming play Merchant of Venice to be staged in Shanghai from Oct 4-7.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The upcoming Chinese production of The Merchant of Venice has brought together a star-studded cast and a Laurence Olivier Award winning theater director from Britain.


The play directed by David Thacker, featuring actors Jin Shijia, Yu Ailei and Ayanga, will premiere on Oct 4 at the Great Theatre of China in Shanghai.


The show will play to a packed house from Oct 4-7, after tickets to all four performances sold out within minutes when the box office opened on Aug 30. "I was trying to buy some tickets myself, but all of them were gone even before the webpage was loaded," says a staff member at the Great Theatre of China who asked to remain anonymous. In order to meet the strong demand, the theater management was even considering selling some seats with partially obstructed views of the stage, she says.


One of the main attractions of the production is the cast. Ayanga, who will play the role of Antonio, is a Chinese singer and musical actor of the Mongolian ethnic group. He achieved national fame through the talent show Super-Vocal, which aired on Hunan TV. "I am the new boy of the theater stage," says the 30-year-old. "It almost seemed impossible that one day I would be performing in a Shakespeare play like The Merchant of Venice. This is a great opportunity for me to improve my stagecraft, especially with Mr Thacker being our director."


Jin Shijia and Yu Ailei, two veteran actors of both screen and stage, will play the roles of Antonio and Shylock, respectively.


Thacker, 69, who has helmed seven productions that have played in London's West End, praised the actors for their dedication and professional skill, as well as their selflessness. "They were ready to share their skills and observations with less experienced actors in the cast," he says, adding that they are a "great tribute to actors all over China."


Standing on the stage of the 90-year-old Great Theatre of China, Thacker says the newly refurbished space reminds him of venues in the West End, making him feel at home.


With the help of interpreters he has happily worked with the cast in Shanghai, all of whom are in the same age range as his four children.

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