“Shakespeare may have been a butcher, but I may have just butchered Shakespeare”

While in Kuala Lumpur, MD and I attended a performance  of Lo Mio & Chiu Liet: Forbidden Love in the Forbidden City at the KL Performing Arts Centre. The play was a bilingual adaptation of Romeo & Juliet set in Beijing in 1930. The actors switched between Mandarin and English, but the entire play was also subtitled. It had most of the major points from the original play, but it was definitely an adaptation.

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All the details…
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The signs at the entrance encourage you to choose sides

Due to an issue getting a cab, MD and I walked in just before the play started, but the cast and crew was running late at that point. So of course we each got a glass of wine. The play was in a fairly low-key space with seats for the audience on either side of the stage. Indeed, we were meant to select a side in keeping with the divisive nature of the play. But there were also “fancier” chairs set within the audience that the cast used during the production.

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The stage set for Lo Mio & Chiu Liet
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The stage set for Lo Mio & Chiu Liet
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with MD at the KL Performing Arts Centre

The play started out with what seemed like a straightforward English-langugage production of Romeo & Juliet. “Two houses, both alike…” and so forth. However, after the first few minutes, additional characters entered and started interacting with one another as if they were just watching a showing of Romeo & Juliet themselves. The adaptive nature of the play caused some confusion for some audience members, who tried to shush these new actors. To say the least, we were entertained.

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KL Performing Arts Center
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KL Performing Arts Center

The bilingual aspects played out as Lo Mio’s family was always from Beijing whereas Chiu Liet’s family had recently returned to Beijing after making their fortune in the US. So Lo Mio and Mercutio spoke mainly in Mandarin whereas Chiu Liet and the Nurse spoke mainly in English. It wasn’t as confusing as it sounds. Indeed, we both thoroughly enjoyed the creative approach. Everyone still died though. Oops, should that have had a spoiler alert?

Title quote: UiHua Cheah who wrote Lo Mio & Chiu Liet with Freddy Tan

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KL Performing Arts Center
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KL Performing Arts Center

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