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“What Country, Friends, Is This?”: Touring Shakespeares, Agency, and Efficacy in Theatre Historiography


The curtain rose at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, on 14 August 2011 to reveal a richly textured production of The Tempest on a bare stage with minimal props. As the lights came up, a group of white-robed sailors were caught in a meticulously choreographed storm, dancing to the mesmerizing beats of the master drummer upstage. The performers’ costumes echoed traditional Korean hanbok attire and their acting style incorporated t'alch'um mask-dance drama techniques. Their long white sleeves flapped and swayed in sync with their movements. Engulfed in stagewide sapphire and then crimson lighting, their sleeves were transformed from symbols of violent wind and waves to raging fire on board a ship approaching a world where, as Gonzalo aptly summarized, “no man was his own” (5.1.211). With Prospero (King Zilzi) as the drummer upstage and Ariel dancing in the midst of the unfortunate sailors, the storm scene—one of the longest renditions of the “direful spectacle” (1.2.26) in the performance history of The Tempest—served as an anchor to the tragicomic narrative about the self and the other. For a fleeting moment, Prospero gave the impression of being a drillmaster at the helm.

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Rustom Bharucha, “Foreign Asia/Foreign Shakespeare: Dissenting Notes on New Asian Interculturality, Postcoloniality, and Recolonization,” Theatre Journal 56.1 (2004): 128

Anston Bosman, “Cape of Storms: The Baxter Theatre Centre–RSC Tempest, 2009,” Shakespeare Quarterly 61.1 (2010): 108–17

Bennett, “Theatre/Tourism,” Theatre Journal 57.3 (2005): 407428

Guoqi Xu, Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895–2008 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008)

Alexander Huang, “Shakespeare and Translation,” in The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts, ed. Mark Thornton Burnett, Adrian Streete, and Ramona Wray (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011), 6887, at 75–6

Monroe E. Price and Daniel Dayan, eds., Owning the Olympics: Narratives of the New China (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008)

Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance, ed. Ayanna Thompson (New York: Routledge, 2006)

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Theatre Survey
  • ISSN: 0040-5574
  • EISSN: 1475-4533
  • URL: /core/journals/theatre-survey
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