Strange Tales: Yuyu Wang's Assistant Director Blog #3

News 25 Nov 2019

As the Strange Tales team prepares for their first preview on Saturday, they experience a series of curious events - from persistent foxes appearing from nowhere to mysterious objects arriving all the way from China. Assistant director, Yuyu Wang, gives us a taste of how strange really these tales can be.

[3 minute read]

It's the last week of rehearsals before we go into the theatre for the hectic tech week. It has been such a busy time that when I think back to what we’ve done in the rehearsal room so far, I can hardly remember a thing - possibly possessed by a theatre ghost!

'Filled with intrigue, mysticism, magic, sensuality, and a dash of terror, Strange Tales will draw you into a world full of mischievous fox spirits, yearning ghosts and shapeshifting creatures where anything and everything is possible.'

As we go deeper into the stories, we begin to notice usual things in our daily lives. Jude (Producer) was mailed a mysterious ring she never ordered from China. On my way home one night, I saw a fox run across the street, disappearing quickly into the woods. I wasn't even sure if it was a fox, and later I was not even sure if I saw anything at all. Ben (Writer/Director) found a fox in his garden watching him, and Pauline (Writer/Director/Performer) pointed out they are no ordinary foxes. No, they are definitely not.

The more familiar I am with the lines, the more drawn into the bizarreness of Strange Tales. Beautiful women or handsome men can be supernatural beings. Humans can fall in love with ghosts. Fox spirits can be sincere and loyal. Feelings of affection can remain after death. Love can bring the dead back to the living world. The veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead can be magically thin when you genuinely desire to be with your loved ones.

There are also weird accounts. Eye pupils can talk. People can sneeze out unknown creatures. Minuscule mandarins can march in procession. Spirits in different shape can come to attack you. Like a fox staring at you in the middle of the street, the stories appear in a mysterious way that you willingly accept the bizarreness. It just happens naturally and organically. The tales find the storytellers and decide to tell themselves.

'But be warned – unless you come to these tales with an open mind and brave heart, you may never be able to escape them…'

This production is the first British stage adaptation of a selection of Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling. Written in China nearly 500 years ago, these poetic stories still speak to us in a universal way.

Pu Songling wrote the tales for his lonely anger and self entertainment. Frustrated with the society he lived in, he presented an imaginary world with hundreds of tales of diverse types, intertwined with his unfulfilled desire and ambition. Dreams come true. Criminals are punished. Love never dies. Foxes are everywhere. (Even in Ben's garden!)

Pauline and Ben adapted the stories in an intimate way with storytellers sharing personal journey approaching the tales, and we can’t wait to share this special experience with the audience.

These are no ordinary tales. These are... Strange Tales.

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.