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English Dramas Enchant Chinese Audiences

Dramas in the English language have recently become a new favorite of Chinese audiences.

The Kneehigh Theatre, a 20-year-old troupe from Cornwall in southwest Britain, has already tasted success in China with the staging of "The Red Shoes".

Currently, the drama is being put on at the Beijing People's Art Theater, and there are altogether four performances.

When the troupe staged three performances of "The Red Shoes" at Shanghai's Dramatic Arts Center (SDAC) earlier this month, all the tickets were sold out a week ahead.

Adapted from Hans Andersen's fairy tale, the drama depicts a girl who gets a pair of magic red shoes, but later is punished for her vanity by having to dance in the shoes until they ruin her feet.

"I was a little bit anxious about the language obstacles at the beginning, since English humor is very difficult to understand. However, I think the audiences caught the jokes," said the troupe's director, Emma Rice.

"The Red Shoes" is the first English drama presented in China this year.

Last year, there were a few such dramas, and many more will be staged, including the "Three Dark Stories".

"We have carefully chosen the dramas to ensure that the audience can understand them," said Yu Rongjun, a playwright with the center.

These dramas emphasize body movements rather than dialogue, which enables an audience which does not understand English to enjoy them too.

"Completely different from domestic ones, English dramas usually bring about fresh new ideas, which makes them stand out among all kinds of dramas," said Wu Jia from SDAC.

It is noteworthy that dramas in English have helped the resurgence of this traditional art. With the introduction of English dramas, Shanghai's major theaters have witnessed a sharp increase in audiences, and most of the playgoers are under the ageof 30.

Last year, "Smallpox and Hot-dog" and "The Last Day of A Woman" -- in bilingual versions -- packed the theaters where they were performed in Shanghai.

Even the classical drama "Macbeth" with its lengthy dialogues in Shakespearean English attracted Chinese audiences.

Professors from the Shanghai Drama Institute consider that excellent works of Western dramas usually have strong experimental color and can provoke thought. Therefore, language barriers cannot hinder the communication between actors and audience.

A survey conducted by the SDAC found that over 97 percent of those surveyed liked to watch English-language dramas, and 50 percent said they do not need subtitles.

In addition, the large number of foreigners living in China's major cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, have also applauded the arrival of English dramas.

"It was great to watch an English drama in Shanghai, and the play was really funny," said Linda Johnson, who came from Britain a year ago.

(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2002)

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