By Mark Kitto
Directed by Henry Maynard and Marlie Haco
Thursday 28 April 2022, 7.30pm
In the Blue Drawing Room
A topical and entertaining drama about China and the West
‘Chinese Boxing’ is a bold and innovative piece of theatre that tackles one of the urgent questions of modern times: can China and the West get along? And it tackles it from both sides, no punches pulled.
The year is 1912, a lecture to the Hampshire branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, at Stansted Park. The speaker is Sir Claude MacDonald, former British Minister Plenipotentiary – ambassador – to Peking in 1900 during the famous Boxer Uprising. Sir Claude commanded the defence of the Legations – diplomatic quarter – when they were besieged by the peasant ‘Boxer’ army, supported by Imperial Chinese troops. The siege lasted 55 days until it was lifted by a multinational relief force. The episode was described in the newspapers of the day as ‘the most exciting episode ever known to civilization’. (It was also the subject of the 1963 epic film, '55 Days at Peking', with Charlton Heston and David Niven.)
Sir Claude wants to discuss China and the West ‘today’ – that’s 1912 for him, today for us. 1912 was the year of the foundation of the Republic of China; a new country, a rising power the world must accommodate. Sound familiar?
Sir Claude starts by ‘taking you back to Peking’ in 1900 and he does just that, to the Imperial Palace, where you hear the story from the Chinese side. It is not straightforward and will challenge your view of the past… and the present.
The performance is followed by a Q and A about China and Britain today. Mark Kitto, as well as being a writer and actor, is a respected China pundit.
The show is coming to Stansted Park soon after a short run in London. Look out for the reviews. Here are some comments so far.
‘Entrancing… incredibly powerful.’ Carla Phillips, Eastern Daily Press
‘Everyone should watch this.’ Former cabinet minister, Baroness Gillian Shephard
‘A stimulating and original show – I learned tons.’ Jonathan Freedland, Guardian/Radio 4
‘Historically fascinating, beautifully written.’ David Haig
Running Time 70 minutes with no interval, followed by Q and A
Recommended for ages 16+
General Admission £20.00
Directions to Stansted House
• Follow the local Brown Tourists signs to Stansted House.
• Please use the drive marked NORTH ENTRANCE.
• Continue along the driveway until you reach a set of black gates - approach the gates slowly and they will open for you.
• Head straight along to the car park and park-up on the left.
From there you can walk down to the front door of the mansion where we will greet you.