Script Development

In Chinese Opera a typical play script is little more than a skeletal indicator, to give the actor the space to improvise and to create, to display his/her artistic maturity (Ma 2015). Indeed, a famous story is that of male Shaoxin performer Jin Zhitang who, when challenged to improvise a song about a tobacco holder, allegedly sang from early morning until lunchtime (Gao 1994).

These romantic notions of the Traditional Opera performer being able to improvise were dismissed very early in the development process. Years of institutionalised reform of the opera houses across China have seen the demise of the Actor’s Theatre and the assertion of the western-style Director’s Theatre. A complete script for the performance was requested and required at an early stage by the team at Shanghai Yue Opera House.

Whilst a number of attempts were made within the team, thanks are warmly extended to Leeds-based Scriptwriter Mary Cooper who developed the character biographies, timeline and proposed setting which focused the story and characters against the historical settings and allowed Dr Ma to produce a working draft of the performance script which Shanghai Yue Opera House accepted.

The script has subsequently been developed, with assistance from our performer Rousang Wang, the Shanghai Yue Opera House and Shanghai Theatre Academy teams and Steve Ansell the projects Artistic Director. This has taken significant time as each amendment by a Chinese partner has required translations to be produced before they could be understood and accepted by the UK team, and vice versa.

The latest versions of the script to be produced (270421) are English Version and Chinese Version. These are working copies and subject to ongoing change and development as we develop interactions between performer and digital graphic installations.



Ma, Haili. 2015. Urban Politics and Cultural Capital, The Case of Chinese Opera. Farnham: Ashgate.

Gao, Yilong and Lu Shijun eds. 1994. Chongxin Zouxiang Huihuang (Walk to the road of success once again). Beijing: Chinese Drama Publisher.