Yesterday we went to see the Shanghai Peking Opera troupes version of Shakespeares Hamlet in a completely reworked version titled “The Revenge of the Prince”, part of Hamlet Sommer.

I really didn't know what to expect, I had seen pictures of the costumes and I've heard Chinese music before, but that was it. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Peking Opera style is like nothing I've ever seen before. The costumes are incredible, held in the style of the Ming Dynasty, and in stark contrast to the very minimalist scenography. In this play they used 5 chairs and that was it.

Watching it I got a distinct feeling that they were using a vocabulary I just don't have. I mean, of course it was in Chinese, but there was “subtitles” in the form of a screen with the translation above the stage, but the moves and attitudes were at times hard to interpret for a non-chinese person. The colors of the clothes and faces are also significant, black means honest and unsuspicious, white is evil, yellow is cunning and brutal and so on. It's very confusing for Europeans.

The body language was easier to understand—most of the time. I especially loved the way they used their eyes and eye movements, a very dramatic effect.

The play got underway 15 minutes late because of a thunderstorm, and it never really stopped raining. In fact, after 1½ hours—out of 2½ hours planned—they cancelled the rest, the musicians' instuments got too wet from the ligt drizzles that came and went that evening.

Bummer, I had looked forward to the sword fight near the end.

If you ever get the chance to see Paking Opera you should, it's splendid. The only bad thing I can say about it, except for the weather, is that I simply couldn't follow all the interesting things going on at once, enjoying the costumes, the dancing, reading the text and listening to the singing and music simply isn't possible at once, I was overloaded. Which is kind of a good thing I guess.