Reporter 403, 2 June 1997

Lunchtime recital takes on an oriental air with Peking opera

Students and staff were treated to a performance of Peking opera when husband and wife Dr Ruru Li and Dr David Jiang from East Asian Studies and the Workshop Theatre put on a scene from Farewell My Concubine in full costume and make up – which took three hours to put on. Dr Li says “In China, performers would have their own professional head dresser and wardrobe person to help. But for us, we had to help each other.”

The couple teach Chinese language, literature and theatre at the University and have worked in drama and theatre in China. Dr Li was born into a Peking opera actress family, and had her first training in the art at the age of 10.

With the onset of the Cultural Revolution she was sent to the country to work in a medicine factory, but her mother and family friends were able to teach her more about the opera. Dr Jiang was an actor and director of modern theatre in China and has been staging intercultural productions since he came to Britain. At the performance on May 15 they explained the story and some of the stage conventions to the audience. Dr Li says “I regard regular contact with the theatre as essential to my academic work.”

In 1994 the couple took the Workshop Theatre’s Macbeth to China where it was performed at the Shanghai International Shakespeare Festival. The couple plan further trips to Canada and Mexico to give performances and hold workshops.

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