Chinese Hamlet in 'Jackie Chan style'

Image caption The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan is the story of Hamlet told in the Peking Opera style

Jackie Chan meets Hamlet.

That's how Edinburgh International Festival director Jonathan Mills summed up The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan, a version of the Shakespeare play performed by the Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe.

Mr Mills said: "It is very much the story of Hamlet and his growing anger and resentment but it is done rather in the style of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, both of whom studied traditional Peking Opera.

"People who think they don't know about Peking Opera, you've seen it in all those martial arts films that people love.

"Under the surface of that is the same kind of skill, the same kind of martial arts virtuosity that you need in the original Peking Opera style."

The festival director described it as "a totally crazy, levitating, wonderfully dynamic, very energetic night out".

Peking Opera, also known as Jingju, is a form of traditional Chinese theatre which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics.

Jackie Chan, who transformed himself from a Chinese film star into a Hollywood action comedy legend, trained at a Peking Opera school.

He learnt skills in martial arts, acrobatics and tumbling, music and dance.

Fu Xiru, who plays Zi Dan, the Hamlet part, at Edinburgh's Festival Theatre, said the training for Peking Opera started at a very young age.

Great importance

Mr Fu, who is now 30, began learning the complex rules and its rigorous training when he was 10.

He learned all the traditional skills including martial arts.

Mr Fu said: "It is very dangerous. Almost every actor who does the martial arts has some kind of pain or injury in their body.

"In the ending of this show Hamlet needs to fight the brother of Ophelia. At this part, the martial arts is of great importance."

The sets in Peking Opera are virtually non-existent so that all focus is on the performers, who are judged on the purity of their vocal performance and the aesthetic beauty of their movements.

Mr Fu also highlighted the importance of the elaborate costumes which the actors wear to convey emotion and movement.

The show's producer Sun Chung Liang said public interest in Peking Opera had revived after a fallow period in recent decades.

"Peking Opera has already experienced the glorious era - the peak - and now its development is something like a wave," he said.

"To be honest, today this traditional art is not as popular as before.

"However, during the recent years things turned better. More and more people are trying to save this traditional art and protect it."

Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe artists have been going into colleges and universities to attract new interest.

For Mr Sun the most difficult period has been overcome.

"Things will get better and better," he said.

The Revenge of Prince Zi Dan is at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh until Sunday 21 August.