Pure speculation, I know. But it was good to hear the waves of applause pulsating through in the Theatre Royal in Hobart when the curtain fell on a Mandarin adaption of “King Lear.” That’s right: a Chinese takeover of the Bard. From Taiwan, not China, but the audience couldn’t have cared less where it came from in applauding a great theatrical experience.

Taiwan’s Contemporary Legend Theatre Company production of “King Lear”  presented in Tasmania’s Ten Days on the Island festival, distills the original into a two-hour, one-man show fusing Western theatre with Chinese opera. It sounds utterly implausible, but actor/ director/singer/dancer Wu Hsing-kuo succeeds brilliantly.

Forget Shakespeare’s language - you must. This is a distillation of the essence of the tragedy, which deals with profound human emotions, not least love, betrayal, rage and madness. Yes, it’s in Mandarin, but there isn’t a great deal of speech and English surtitles keep you abreast of the action. (A quibble: the surtitles were screened unnecessarily high over the stage, causing people to crane their heads backwards to read them).

Chinese opera involves song, dance, martial arts and acrobatics, and Wu Hsing-kuo delivers them all as he plays the various characters, male and female. A highlight for me was his despair in an elemental storm - with dazzling lightning effects across the stage - when he loses his reason over the ingratitude of his daughters and lack of wisdom to match his years.

Add to all this some beautiful costumes and haunting music played on the side of the stage by a troupe of musicians. This included the deep resonance of Buddhist chants which offset the higher pitched Chinese instruments, and the ever spine-chilling sound of the didgeridoo.

Wu Hsing-kuo - assisted by the composer, costume designer, set designer, lighting designer and musicians - is sensational. After the curtain falls, Wu and his team bow gracefully and deeply before the audience. And we are left with the beating pulse of an astonishing performance.

Margaretta Pos Review courtesy of Oz baby boomers
MEDIA magnate Rupert Murdoch’s wife, Wendi Deng, is Chinese. They have built a mansion in Beijing and, so we have read, without any hint of foul play, she has facilitated meetings with Chinese leaders. For a man with the pulse of empire in his veins, furthering links with the authoritarian Beijing regime is vital for any expansion into China.

It’s surprising, therefore, to find inflammatory anti-Chinese sentiment following revelations of Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s links with Australian-Chinese business figure Helen Liu, in a number of Murdoch newspapers. Fitzgibbon was a fool in failing to disclose trips to China funded by Liu, and Australian authorities should keep close watch on Chinese investment in this country. But had Madam Deng paid for the Defence Minister’s trips rather than Madam Liu, would any politician or journalist be fanning the old fear of the Yellow Peril?