Theater

KING LEAR

By William Shakespeare In a version by Wu Hsing Kuo and the Contemporary Legend Theater company

  • Mandarin Chinese with Spanish subtitles
  • 110 minutes, with an intermission
  • +10 años

Advertencia +10. Strobe lighting, smoke effects

Actor and director Wu Hsing-kuo masterfully plays the ten characters of Shakespeare’s tragedy in an expert fusion of disciplines.


Based on Shakespeare’s tragedy, this King Lear is a tour de force: a three-act play performed in a unique feat by a single actor and, as The Guardian says, a “celebration of acting”. Director Wu Hsing-kuo masterfully plays ten different characters on stage, in the story of an old king who decides to split his kingdom between his three daughters. It’s an expertly carried out fusion of Chinese opera and western theater, combined with martial arts, contemporary dance, visual effects, live music and charming costumes. Power, ambition and old age affect each of the characters, perfectly transitioning between a Lear who is slowly going mad, the love and hate of his daughters and the comic interjection of the court jester, as well as that of other key characters in the play. This adaptation has received rave reviews worldwide for its multitude of codes, rhythms and styles and, above all, Wu Hsing-kuo’s ability to perform and change his appearance in this energetic and fascinating version of the age-old Shakespearian tragedy.

Director, art director and adaptation by: Wu Hsing Kuo, based on the original work by William Shakespeare | Producer: Lin Hsiu-wei | Cast: Wu Hsing Kuo (all the characters) | Vocal arrangement Li Men y Wu Hsing-Kuo |
Music Designer and Composer: Li Yi-Chin | Vocal arrangement composer: Li Han-Chiang | Stage designer: Chang Ho-Chin | Lighting designer: Tommy Wong and Wong Choo Yean | Costume designer: Tim Yip | Musicians: Hsieh Ma Lan (una miembra de GuoGuang Opera Company), Hung Shuo-Han, Chang Li-Ping, Lin Chiu-Tsen, Hsiao Shih-Wei, Yeh Chun-Ming, Liu Yao-Yuan, Yu Kuo-Yi, Hsu Yu-Hung.

Supported by GuoGuang Opera Company, National Center of Traditional Arts | Taipei Li-yuan Chinese Opera Theater, National Taiwan College of Performing Arts, Taiwan Jingju and Kunqu Opera Troupe, National Taiwan College of Performing Arts, Chai Found Music Workshop.

“This remarkable King Lear expands codified Chinese opera style to include Buddhist chant, contemporary music and electronics and Western elements, beyond Shakespeare’s play itself, of course”.

—The New York Times

It’s a new take on the usual conventions of classical Chinese opera. In an interview with critic Joyce MacMillan, Wu Hsing-Kuo said, “I use the four basic techniques of Peking Opera, which are singing, chanting, acting and acrobatics or movement, including martial arts. I also use the four main character types of Peking Opera, the young man, the girl, the old man and the clown. And costumes are very important, quite elaborate and beautiful and full of meaning; (Shakespeare’s work) is similar to our traditional opera; it talks of ethics and morality and of how we should live. (…) But my aim in my work has always been to take classic material and make it feel new, by working creatively with it”.

—Its structure draws interesting parallels between Lear’s character and the performer’s personal experience. Three years before creating King Lear, Wu Hsing-Kuo was feeling oppressed and misunderstood by the theater world; he’d shut down his company, the Contemporary Legend Theater, after several disagreements with its members because their productions were too avant-garde and expensive to stage to be well-received in Taiwanese theaters. At Ariane Mnouchkine’s suggestion, he created the first act of this play in 2000, premiering it at the Odeon Theater and then at the Théâtre du Soleil. Being the only actor on stage allowed him to give free reign to his theatrical ideas. That’s why the three acts are named after theatrical concepts: the play, the staging and the act.

—This version emphasizes parent-child relationships and respect for one’s elders, two important values in oriental culture.

Rey Lear: One of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays, this tragedy is written in verse and prose and was published in 1608. It tell the story of Lear - authoritarian King of Britain - in five acts. He wants to divide his kingdom between his three children according to how much they love him. The piece tackles children’s love and ungratefulness, based on the relationship between the monarch and Cordelia, his youngest daughter who, unlike her sisters, refuses to suck up to her father and simply tells him she loves him ‘as duty requires’, sending him into a rage. Many different versions of the play has been performed, including theater, opera, film and radio-theater. Lear, rey & mendigo by Nicanor Parra is considered the best Spanish translation of this Shakespearean play.

—Shakespearean tragedy: English playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616) - universal master of drama - started developing tragedy from the very beginning of his career, with pieces like Titus Andronicus (considered his most violent play), Othello, King Lear and Macbeth. These are characterized by their admirable but imperfect lead characters, whose decisions inevitably lead them to a tragic destiny.

Tour de force: the Spanish Royal Academy defines this French phrase as ‘a difficult action that requires great effort and ability to be carried out’ and ‘a demonstration of force, power or ability’. In theatrical terms, it’s normally used to talk about a piece in which a character has an important acting role on stage, requiring extraordinary effort.

—Chinese opera: This could be described as a dark comedy or drama with lofty discourse and music, including dance, acrobatics, disguises and striking make-up and movements, the latter of which is the most emblematic of all.

King Lear trailer on YouTube

Contemporary Legend Theater company’s official YouTube channel

King Lear on social media:

On Instagram, @contemporary_legend_theatre

On Twitter, @TWCLT1986

On Facebook, ContemporaryLegendTheatre

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