Julius Caesar sets the scene for victory

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 May, 2006, 12:00am

Four mainland students have won a tour of Shakespeare's England after scooping a China-wide drama contest with their performance of a scene from Julius Caesar.

Ancient Rome was given contemporary relevance - Chinese style - with tai chi practice in the piazza in the lead-up to Caesar's fateful appearance in the Roman senate on the Ides of March.

The team from Beijing's University of International Business and Economics beat off stiff competition from 11 other universities with their abridged version of the scene.

Despite being 20 minutes shorter than Shakespeare's original, they made sure there was time for Caesar's wife Calpurnia to express her feelings about the dream foretelling his death using the Peking Opera water-sleeve technique.

The contest, held at Chinese University, is the first of a 10-year series funded with $1 million a year by the Tien Tsang-lin Technology Innovation Foundation, following a successful $500,000 trial last year. The prize is a trip to England including visits to the Globe Theatre, Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford and performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Hardy Tsoi Sik-cheong, CUHK's arts administrator, said: 'Acting Shakespeare is a very demanding thing - you have to command the language and the stage - and it is beneficial in at least two aspects, theatre arts and learning English.

'It is very much up to the students how the scene is put together, so the editing and the flow of the scenes combine, and I think the UIBE team did good work on that.'

This week's finals included teams from Peking, Tianjin, Fudan, Nanjing, Wuhan, and Macau universities as well as CUHK.

The judges included Colin George, a founder of the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England, Chris Stollery and Ed Wightman of the Bell Shakespeare Company and Dr David Jiang, dean of performing arts at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.