Research Seminar: Chinese theatre and adaptation

Research Seminar: Chinese theatre and adaptation

Location: Alec Clegg Studio, stage@leeds, University of Leeds

Please book a place with Linda Watson

Part 1:

Illustrated talk by Dr Adam Strickson, Theatre Fellow in Theatre and Writing, School of Performance and Cultural Industries

Handan Ji, (The Handan Dream), adapting a classical Chinese drama that ruminates on time and the illusory nature of existence for a UK audience.


Kunju is an intimate, lyrical form of sung dance-drama that reached its peak in the Ming Dynasty and a significant influence on the development of Peking Opera. After adapting Tang Xianzu’s ‘Dreaming Under the Southern Bough’ with Steve Ansell for the stage@leeds company’s 2016 tour to Edinburgh, Shanghai, Beijing and Fuzhou, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of Tang and Shakespeare, Dr Strickson decided to investigate the practice and aesthetics of kunju drama more deeply. While in China, he attended traditional performances and interviewed scholars and performers about the form.  Kunjudramas were designed to last up to 24 hours performed in episodes over a series of days. Dr Strickson will discuss how he approached the task of adapting Tang’s ‘Handan Dream’ as a sung and spoken dance-drama for Western performance. His adaptation is the first by a mother tongue English writer.


Dr Adam Strickson, Teaching Fellow in Theatre and Writing at PCI, was awarded an AHRC Early Career Researcher IPS bursary to study kunju theatre at Shanghai Theatre Academy from April to June 2017. Founder of Chol Theatre and Wingbeats music-theatre project, and a former associate of Horse and Bamboo Theatre, Adam has enjoyed a thirty year professional career as a community theatre director, writer, mask/puppet maker and facilitator, specialising in the creation of original intercultural theatre, including work in India, Bangladesh and commissions for four European Cities of Culture. He studied at Dartington College of Arts (Theatre Language), the University of Huddersfield (Poetry) and completed his practice-based PhD at PCI in July 2014, an AHRC collaborative doctorate in association with Opera North on the relationship between the aesthetics of traditional Japanese drama and contemporary music-theatre addressing individual and societal trauma.


Part 2:

Engaging with the cultural differences between China and the UK in live theatre and performance.

Panel: Doris Jianen Zhang (freelance journalist, translator and coordinator), Ju Chen, (MA Applied Theatre student at and rising playwright in China) and Blair Chan (PhD student specialising in audience).

Chaired by Dr Adam Strickson,

What are the main considerations to be taken into account when adapting traditional and contemporary Chinese drama to create an engaging and comprehensible experience for a European audience?

What are the differences between China and the UK in the nature of the audience’s engagement with traditional and contemporary drama?