Strange Tales: Yuyu Wang's Assistant Director Blog #1

News 12 Nov 2019

In her weekly blog, assistant director Yuyu Wang will tell the tale of how Strange Tales is making its journey to the stage. In her first entry, she introduces us to the origins of the tales and the team working on bringing them to life.

[3 minute read]

Luna Dai and 许勇宽 Robin Khor Yong Kuan in rehearsals

“When wind and snow fill the sky and the fire has grown cold, relight the coals, warm the wine and turn up the wick of the lamp. We enter these tales in the shadows of night, but hopefully emerge into daylight.”

Written in China by Pu Songling centuries ago, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio is a collection of nearly 500 Chinese folk stories about the supernatural and the unexplainable. Strange Tales have always been a significant cultural icon in East Asia, and for the first time it’s been adapted for stage by the acclaimed immersive theatre company Grid Iron in co-production with the Traverse Theatre.

Born and raised in China, I’ve felt personally connected to the stories, all the ghosts and foxes, immortals and demons, supernatural forces and weird accounts. After I moved to the UK and became a theatremaker, I started to reflect more on my cultural heritage through storytelling across borders. I was so excited to work on this production and keen to explore how Chinese stories could be adapted in the British context.

Luna Dai, 许勇宽 Robin Khor Yong Kuan and Pauline Lockhart in rehearsals

How do we speak to the supernatural spirits?

On the first day of rehearsal, Ben invited each member of the creative team to share what has brought them into this project. Everyone has different reasons to join the production and that’s the magic of theatre, bringing people together and sharing a collective experience. We’ve all come together to connect with the supernatural world in the cold Edinburgh winter.

The first week of rehearsal has been extremely productive. The magic world has been introduced in the rehearsal room. We have further explored the text and begin to see different elements gradually coming together - projection, set and costume, magic effects, fight sequence, sound and lighting design. The shape of the show feels exciting already. It is a marvellous journey and we can’t wait to share Pu Songling’s stories with the audience in December.

It’s such a great pleasure to work with an amazing team. Everyone has been extremely welcoming and generous. We are in safe hands with strong support from the stage management team. The rehearsals have been open with lively discussions and interesting observation. It’s fascinating to learn everyone’s way of working and approaching the text in a visual way.

As an assistant director in the room, I have enjoyed my time in the rehearsal room sharing research about the original stories, specific cultural references, personal connections, asking questions and being part of discussions. I’m extremely fortunate to be actively involved in the creative process and work alongside so many talented theatre makers, especially Ben and Pauline who co-created the show. With Ben’s considerable experience directing immersive theatre productions, this visually ambitious production will achieve spectacular results.

Over the coming weeks, as different elements are coming together, the show will look visually engaging and profoundly thought-provoking.

Yuyu Wang, Strange Tales Assistant Director

Yuyu Wang is a London-based theatremaker and creative producer originally from China. She trained at the MFA Advanced Theatre Practice in the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She is keen to explore universality through cultural specificity and use art as a force of social change. She is part of the Young Agitators Programme at the Royal Court Theatre 2019/20 and the Emerging Producers Development Programme 2019 supported by the Fringe Society and British Council. She is the artistic director of Cheeky Chin, a London-based collective of theatremakers of East Asian descent.