Grid Iron and Traverse Theatre Company co-production
Co-writers and directors Pauline Lockhart and Ben Harrison of Grid Iron will be joined by the creative team of Assistant Director Yuyu Wang, Community Creative Advisors Joy Jin and Zhuoer Lin, Set and Costume Designer Karen Tennent, Live Effects Designer Fergus Dunnet, Composer Ruth Chan, Lighting Designer James Johnson, Sound Designer Richard Bell and Video Designers Bright Side (Cristina Spiteri and Susanna Murphy).
The Strange Tales production team will be joined by two students on placement from the Edinburgh Lighting and Sound School – a Technician Placement and a Stage Management Placement – as part of the Traverse’s continued commitment to developing the skills of the next generation of technicians, stage managers and crew members.
The cast will include Robin Khor Yong Kuan, Luna Dai and Pauline Lockhart.
Based on Pu Songling’s legendary Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, audiences can expect to be beguiled and bewitched by brand new adaptations of a selection of these renowned tales, involving innovative new digital technology, puppetry and illusion. Though written centuries ago, they feel remarkably current, reflecting and commenting upon many aspects of modern society – greed, attraction, arrogance and hope, among many others. But you must enter the production’s immersive and spellbinding world with an open mind and a brave heart if you’re to escape these tales ever again….
Strange Tales is brought to you in partnership with the Confucius Institute for Scotland and is part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Chinese Classics Translation Project, funded by Arts Council England. Development process supported by Puppet Animation Scotland’s Creative Fund.
There seems to be quite an exciting blend of artists involved: how did the collaboration of the diverse participants come about?
Pauline Lockhart: We were looking for exciting ways to create the various demons and ghouls in the tales so it made sense to explore collaborating with artists working in different mediums. We saw work that Bright Side Studios had created with the choreographer, Janice Claxton and thought that technology might be ideal for the fight sequences in this piece. Illusion and puppetry seemed the ideal way to create the magic some of the stories required.
What is it about Pu Songling’s Tales that attracted you to it for development as a theatrical experience?
PL: We were attracted to the theatricality and bizarreness of Pu Songling’s Tales. Some are beautiful love stories with very strange twists and others just extremely weird. Although written nearly 400 years ago, they still seem so fresh and modern.
How did you make the selection of the tales?
PL: Deciding which Tales to include was not an easy task. There are almost 500 of them! But we knew we wanted a selection which represented all the various styles of stories in Pu Songling’s originals. There were also some Tales which are relatively well known from film adaptations which we knew we wanted to include.
Do you have a particular approach to adaptations, or did Strange Tales encourage any different dramaturgical strategies?
PL: We were very fortunate to have original translations provided by the Royal Shakespeare Company to work with. We knew we wanted to use a blend of both Scottish and East Asian culture in telling these Tales, so that had a huge influence on the dramaturgical approach.
What made you aim for a mixed-media production?
Ben Harrison: The world of the Tales is so strange and multi-layered, and plays in particular with physical scale so much, that we wanted to draw on the languages of puppetry, illusion and video projection to support the work of the three actors. It’s not a Christmas show in any way in the traditional sense, but it does need to have a strong element of magic.
What kind of affect can the audience expect?
BH: We hope they will be transported to a magical multi-cultural space, poised between East and West, and gain a full immersion in the stories and their place in the world today.
Are the stories familiar or do they introduce a different perspective on theatre?
BH: Some of the stories remind us of the magical realism of some of the very earliest Grid Iron shows, like The Bloody Chamber or Gargantua, in the way the magic is very close to real actions and life. But the strongly different cultural context offers a very different perspective to that of Western theatre. I imagine certain aspects, such as the thin membrane between the world of the living and the world of the dead, will be much more familiar to East Asian audiences.