Mightier than the Sword: Shakespeare and Zhu Sheng Hao - hot off the press! a new musical play by our very own James Middleton


HK English Speaking Union
  • Tue 19-06-2018 7:15 PM - 2 h

Room B

Refreshments are available at the Fringe Club.


ESU-Fringe Club Play-reading, Tuesday June 19 at 7.30 Colette’s, HK Fringe Club


Mightier than the Sword: Shakespeare and Zhu Sheng Hao

- hot off the press! a new musical play by our very own James Middleton


This month’s play-reading is unusual inasmuch as we won’t be reading the work of a famous playwright- although the play is about both a world-famous playwright and a Chinese translator whose work deserves to be better known. Zhu Shenghao (朱生豪) (February 2, 1912 – December 26, 1944) is the translator translator in question and James Middleton is the Play-reading group’s very own dramatic author! Born in Zhejiang, China, Zhu was among the first few in China who translated the works of William Shakespeare into the Chinese language; many people think his translations were also the best. He translated a total of 31 of Shakespeare’s plays, 27 of which were published before the founding of the People's Republic of China. Due to the social turbulence that occurred between the 1950s- 1970s, it was not until the late ‘70s that Zhu's complete Shakespeare texts in Chinese were finally published in Beijing. Today his  translations are highly respected by domestic and overseas scholars. His organisation of the texts followed the rationale of genre classification, i.e. comedy, tragedy, historical, miscellaneous.


James’s musical play version focuses on his life during the Japanese occupation and his relationship with Song whom he later married - with Shakespeare’s help, according to James’s play! Forced out of Shanghai - and out of his employment as a journalist - by the Japanese army, Zhu makes it his mission to produce the first Chinese translation of Shakespeare's plays. His work is impeded by having to evade the Japanese, who destroy his manuscripts, and by his deteriorating health. Yet, working at furious pace, supported by a few loyal friends, and inspired by an entirely unexpected companion, he comes tantalisingly close to completing the task, along the way marrying (at last) the love of his life, Song Qingru, two years prior to his untimely death from tuberculosis at the young age of 32 - although the play ends on a happier note. New Zealand composer James Middleton has worked at a slightly less frenetic pace, writing the script, songs and lyrics of the musical in a little over two years. The script is still a work in progress, as translations of Zhu Sheng Hao's poetry and his wartime articles will continue to prompt re-editing.


Facilitator and Introducer: James Middleton


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