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China’s young theatre

How UK theatre makers can charm China’s young audiences

​After the success of recent collaborations between professionals from the UK and China working in theatre for young audiences (often abbreviated to TYA), the British Council commissioned us to write a report on China’s TYA sector. This included a profile of the conditions and changes in the market, as well as challenges and opportunities for UK professionals.

We interviewed the leading specialists familiar with working in the Chinese TYA sector and cross-referenced this qualitative data with articles, official reports and data released by the Chinese government.

Our key findings included:

  • Demand for performances for children is rapidly increasing mostly thanks to government policies and demographic and socioeconomic developments. The number of TYA performances has doubled, making it the largest sub-sector of China’s theatre industry; growth is set to continue at a rate of 15% annually over the next 5 years
  • The majority of these performances are occurring in China’s ‘first tier’ cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, though the demand is increasing just as quickly in less developed cities. Venues are generally very large, though some stakeholders are creating the infrastructure for international productions produced for smaller venues
  • Lack of government funding puts significant commercial pressure on the local sector, making it often reliant upon ‘safe’ dramatizations of well-known television characters or fairytales, and on lucrative and popular educational programmes to boost theatre experiences
  • The demand for international performances is therefore increasing in the desire for higher quality. For international professionals, order to navigate China’s complex and challenging market practices, it is highly recommended to find the appropriate partner and to develop a relationship over time.

The report yielded encouraging news for future collaborations between UK and Chinese companies in the performing arts sector. This is particularly exciting given uncertainty over the UK’s future artistic collaborations with EU countries. China offers a strong potential future partnership, with new cultural connections emerging each year, such as the co-commissioning of Yang Liping’s Rite of Spring by the International Arts Festivals of Shanghai and Edinburgh.

A full version of the report can be downloaded here.

- Alex Gomar, Associate

Image credit: Henry Qi (2017)