A Terrified Soul – Macbeth

There have been by my count no less than six adaptations of Macbeth at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016, yet the China Anhui Opera Institute’s offering may be the most unusual. Chinese opera aficionados don’t get many opportunities to see the art form in the UK so will enjoy this, but it is accessible and interesting enough for anyone with a basic understanding of the plot of Macbeth to watch and enjoy. It is even, to fall utterly for the cliche, a wonderful example of the universality of Shakespeare. A tale about a General who murders - at the pressure of his wife - a King, and is then wracked by terrible guilt transfers wonderfully from medieval Scotland into Chinese mythology and opera.

Highly accessible and enjoyable to watch.

In this adaptation Macbeth is Zi Yin, the most noted General in the Xu state, who rises on the back of his battlefield success to be Prime Minister of Xu. Egged on by his wife his lust for power is not sated by this and he murders the King and King’s relatives, seizing the crown for himself, before suffering his ultimate comeuppance. The use of some very impressive acrobatics and dancing along with highly striking face masks make the whole production utterly compelling. Haunted by ghosts and guilt Zi Yin ultimately becomes the titular Terrified Soul.

Though performed in Mandarin this opera has subtitles on a screen visible to the audience. The translation work could have been a lot better, though it did result in some wonderful lines appearing on screen such as “With the rebel executed at last, to your estate we’ll pay a visit fast”, “Long brewed wine cracked open with a flavor [sic], Dedicated to our King for a saver [sic]”. The scenes are named (Scene 3: Blood Sword, Scene 4: More Murders) but this may be a deliberate joke. Certainly one line is rather witty “I never practice martial arts but liberal arts”.

The China Anhui Opera Institute have adapted a style that will be unfamiliar to many Edinburgh audiences in a way that works extremely well and is highly accessible and enjoyable to watch.

Reviews by Joseph Spencer

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The Blurb

China Anhui Opera Institute is proud to present A Terrified Soul, an exciting new adaptation of Macbeth. With an eclectic fusion of contemporary and classical Chinese opera elements, A Terrified Soul explores the universal themes of ambition, morality, fate and free will. A faithfulness to the original plot of Macbeth is at the heart of this multidimensional production of drama, dance, art and music. This spectacular production is sure to appeal to a wide international audience.

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