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Boldness be my friend

The maiden Hong Kong International Shakespeare Festival brings some of the most daringly experimental theater based on the Bard's works to the city. Chitralekha Basu reports.

By Chitralekha Basu | HK EDITION | Updated: 2024-06-07 17:43
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Cassandra Tang as Cordelia in the Tang Shu-wing-directed nonverbal King Lear with an all-female cast.[Photo provided to China Daily]

During this week and the next, Hong Kong's theater lovers can expect to see "some of the most daring attempts at reimagining Shakespeare while retaining the spirit of the original", says Tang Shu-wing. The artistic director of the inaugural Hong Kong International Shakespeare Festival - a joint venture between the eponymous Tang Shu-wing Theatre Studio and the West Kowloon Cultural District - has reason to be proud of curating a lineup that's as diverse as it can get but united in terms of the sheer chutzpah on display.

Macbettu, for instance, is an all-male rendition of Shakespeare's Macbeth. It's a rather unconventional casting decision, considering the play has a strong female character at its center - the ruthless and manipulative Lady Macbeth, whose wily moves are crucial to the plot. Italian director Alessandro Serra has cast "a man 1.93 meters tall and with a thick beard" as Shakespeare's most irrepressible female lead. "She is taller and stronger than the male characters, being an emblem of generative force and female power," says the director.

The play's original Scottish-moors setting has been moved to Barbagia, "a wonderful and at the same time archaic and violent land in Sardinia, where it is not difficult to come across certain archetypes present in Shakespeare's work". The struggle for political one-upmanship is depicted in the form of well-built, muscular men, with shaven heads, fighting between themselves like a pack of dogs, on a dust-laden stage with totemic stone sculptures - a throwback to primitive hunter-gatherer societies.

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