Stages of translation

Updated: Jan 22, 2024 By Chen Nan China Daily Print
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The Shawshank Redemption, a new Chinese stage adaptation of the 1982 Stephen King novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, is now playing in China, starting with its Shenzhen premiere on Jan 12, followed by shows in Shanghai and Beijing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The new Chinese-language play, The Shawshank Redemption, features an all-Western cast of Mandarin speakers, Chen Nan reports.

It has been 30 years since the premiere of the movie, The Shawshank Redemption.

The 1994 Hollywood film — written and directed by Frank Darabont and based on the Stephen King novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption — tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who spends 19 years wrongly imprisoned in Shawshank State Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover. Over the following two decades, he befriends a fellow prisoner, Red, who has spent most of his life in the prison and is capable of smuggling in anything from the outside world.

Chinese veteran actor-director Zhang Guoli works with 11 foreign cast members from eight countries in the play. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Veteran Chinese actor-director Zhang Guoli says the film has always been one of his favorites.

"There are two scenes that touch me most," Zhang says.

"One is when Andy locks himself in the prison's office in an act of defiance against prison authorities and plays a piece of music from Mozart's opera, The Marriage of Figaro, over the loudspeakers. The other is the scene when Brooks Hatlen carves 'Brooks was here' into a wooden beam in his apartment and hangs himself."

Now, a Chinese-language stage adaptation of the timeless story, also titled The Shawshank Redemption, is holding its first round of performances in China, starting with its premiere in Shenzhen, where three shows were held from Jan 12 to 14. It continues its tour in Shanghai from Jan 18 to 21, followed by a presentation in Beijing from Jan 25 to 28. Its tour will extend to over 30 shows this year.

Directed by Zhang, the Chinese play features 11 actors from eight countries — an all-Western cast performing in Chinese, headlined by the narrator, Red, played by Canadian Mark Rowswell, who's better known among Chinese audiences by his Chinese name, Da Shan. James Clarke plays the role of Dufresne.

The Chinese version of The Shawshank Redemption is based on the stage adaptation of the original Stephen King story by Owen O'Neill and David Johns in 2009.

"Under the horrific circumstances — despair, distrust, abuse — there are love, resilience and friendship between Andy and Red, and strength coming from hope and the pursuit of freedom. We try to translate the story into a unique cultural context for Chinese audiences," says Zhang.

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