Bridging The Gaps: Mixed Reality Performance of Chinese Opera in Rural and Urban Shanghai


£499,488 (AHRC) / £1,032,420 (Chinese Partners) - Total £1,531,908

Partners and collaborators

University of Leeds, Leeds City Council, Leeds Playhouse, Invisible Flock, Human Studio, East China University of Political Science and Law, Shanghai Theatre Academy, Shanghai Yue Opera House, Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre, Shanghai Pudong New District Municipal Government, Shanghai Arts Research Institute


Bridging the Gaps brings together a cluster of pre-selected UK-China experts with complementary skills to explore the potential of mixed reality performance in bridging Shanghai's rural and urban communities and developing respective creative economies. By "mixed reality performance" we mean performance that uses common and novel technologies to merge "real" and "virtual" worlds in the audience's experience and through which material, digital objects and actors interact in real time. Such performances may be fixed or locative and take place across one or multiple sites. This project will focus on new and innovative performances of Chinese Opera, a form of popular culture traditionally relating to rural communities, as a case study to establish new China-UK research-industry partnerships and projects for long term development.


The project will, from the outset, engage with six UK-China industry partners working in Shanghai to develop mixed reality performance and will generate pathways to impact on a range of non-academic audiences, professional groups and organisations:

Our first route to impact will be via the three productions (Product 1-Sound of the migrants; Product 2-Salome; Product 3-site specific performance incorporating Products 1 and 2 linking Pudong and Puxi, Shanghai) and their engagement of rural and new urban audiences for Chinese opera. In the first year, the project will collate information on how diverse Shanghai opera acts as a way of life in rural and urban settings and how it has been absorbed into everyday practices; in years two and three, research data will be collated focused on Shanghai opera production style and consumption patterns; data will be recorded and will be edited and streamed periodically on the project’s bilingual website and interlinked with all partners’ existing webpages for maximised online readership: Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre engages an audience of more than 300,000 every year, mostly under 40 years of age; Shanghai Yue Opera House has the largest female audience across rural and urban Shanghai; Chuansha Opera Village is one of the latest national profile creative industries investments and has prominent government and social media coverage. There will be high interest and followers from all partners on this project.

The second pathway to impact comes from the research links, activities and outputs generated by the project's presence at three International Festivals. Chuansha Opera International Festival was created in October 2018 to promote the diversity of Chinese opera, which currently has over 300 different regional forms; thousands of SME as well as government opera institutions registered for the 2019 Festival, with the highlight being linking international sites using digital media technology to celebrate the events simultaneously. Since 2005, SDAC has been hosting the annual Shanghai International Festival and more than 150 productions from over twenty different countries have registered and performed in the festival. The two Shanghai symposiums are scheduled to coincide with the two festival events. The development of joint products and partnership will be consolidated through the 3rd and final Leeds symposium in month 36, coinciding with the 2023 Leeds International City of Culture Festival; again, a series of activities will be wrapped around, including sections of Products 1, 2 and 3, exhibitions and performances staged at UK partner institutions and organizations, along with the release of the project documentary film. This will provide an end-point and report back on emergent collaboration and new activities in relation to the project and beyond.

The third pathway to impact will be delivered through the project's catalysing of collaborations between the external partners, and other potential participants, to develop and establish a creative industry chain, in which public and private sectors work reciprocally to identify new consumers and markets. Such a creative industry chain applies within UK partners, Chinese partners, as well as across UK-China partnerships. The process assists UK SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) (Invisible Flock, Human VR) to develop partnerships with Shanghai government (Chuansha Opera Village), traditional and modern Chinese performing companies (Shanghai Yue Opera House, Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre) to engage directly with a leading UK theatre (Leeds Playhouse) for artistic creation and collaboration, supported by government (Leeds City Council). This project provides a rare and exciting opportunity for UK arts institutions, government bodies and SME companies to enter the Chinese market as a cluster, with complementary areas of expertise, to provide each other with linguistic and cultural support and shared resource, whilst developing partnerships in Shanghai and establishing a long-term 'creative chain'.


Project website