Cultural Capital in Intercultural Theatre: A Study of Pan Pan theatre company’s The Playboy of the Western World

Emer O Toole

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In 2006, the Dublin based theatre company Pan Pan went to China to produce a Mandarin Chinese version of J.M. Synge’s canonical Irish play The Playboy of the Western World. The production, which had an all Chinese cast, played first in Beijing and later in Dublin. Gavin Quinn, the show’s director, chose to set the adaptation in a ‘whore-dressers,’ or hairdresser/foot-massage parlour/brothel, on the outskirts of contemporary Beijing. He penned an adaptation in English, and worked with Chinese translators to produce a performable Mandarin script. Quinn originally wanted the protagonist, Christy/Ma Shang, to hail from Xin-Jiang, the troubled Uyghur and Sinomuslim province in the North-West of China. However, as he told me in interview, he was advised against such a representation due to fears of Chinese state censorship. My interview with two of the Chinese translators of the play, Yue Sun and Zhaohui Wang, tells a different story. For the translators, the decision to shy away from a Muslim Christy had less to do with censorship than it did with respecting the sensitivities of Uyghur people. Reading the translation process through Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital, this article interrogates the ethics of the intercultural collaboration that produced Pan Pan’s Mandarin Playboy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2013

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