A Shakespearean Handan Dream

We are happy to let you know about a new collaboration which brings together the worlds of Shakespeare and Kunqu (Jiangsu Opera), performed for two nights only at the Actor’s Church, London (22/23 September). To encourage students, we have negiotiated a special discount price for you, bringing the ticket down from £10 to £5 (plus 50p booking fee).

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the deaths of both England and China’s most celebrated playwrights, and to mark the occasion British and Chinese theatre practitioners Ke Jun and Leon Rubin realise their six year collaboration, A Shakespearean Handan Dream. Shakespearean characters such as King Lear and Macbeth enter the world of Lu Sheng’s existential dream, delivered by a mixed cast of Chinese and British performers.


The Handan Dream is the final of Tang Xianzu’s famous four masterpieces. In the original text, frustrated scholar-official Lu Sheng meets an immortal at an inn, to whom he complains to about his lack of success in the imperial exams. In order to enlighten him, the immortal sends Lu into a dream of a whole lifetime, a fifty-year political career of successes and glories, excesses and failures. Upon waking Lu then discovers he is still in the inn and no time has passed. The play is a statement on the transience of human existence and futility of earthly desire and ambition. Having seen and tasted for himself the heights of luxury and privilege, Lu Sheng sees that they all eventually lead ultimately to suffering and disappointment.
In this adaption, events in Lu Sheng’s dream are echoed by the characters, themes, plots and lyrics of Shakespeare’s plays, creating a dialogue in which the questions of ambition and desire are treated according to the contrasting attitudes and cultures of Elizabethan England and Ming China.


Kunqu is the form of Chinese opera in which Tang’s plays are most often performed. In 2001 it was recognised by UNESCO as a masterpiece of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Musically it is characterised by bamboo-flute accompaniment and high melisma with intricate rhythmic patterns to express word-tones within melody. The Jiangsu Kunju Theatre has a leading reputation both in China and internationally, commanding the largest audiences of any of the country’s seven troupes.

Ke Jun is an award-winning Kunqu performer and a foremost transmitter of the martial male-role acting tradition. Ke is currently artistic director of the Jiangsu Performing Arts Group, China’s largest performing arts company, and a key practitioner of ‘New-concept Kunqu’, a school that sees this historic performance art as both traditional and avant-garde. He stars and co-directs this production of A Shakespearean Handan Dream.

Co-Director Leon Rubin began his career as Assistant Director at the Royal Shakespeare Company and has been Artistic Director of three major UK theatre companies: Bristol Old Vic, Watford Palace and the Lyric Belfast.

Where: St Paul’s Church / ‘The Actor’s Church’ Bedford St, London WC2E 9ED

When: 22nd and 23rd September | Time 8:00pm

Book here:

Thursday tickets http://www.wegottickets.com/event/373895

Friday tickets  http://www.wegottickets.com/event/373897